Let’s spend the next EU Budget well!
31 October 2012, New Europe
While Western European governments are fighting their Eastern European counterparts in Brussels over the size of the next EU Budget (2014-2020), European citizens are looking forward to a budget that is designed well enough to generate both environmental protection and economic benefits.
A few months ago, at Bankwatch we thought to award citizens from Central and Eastern European countries who have the best ideas of projects that could be potentially financed from the EU Budget. We added the condition that these be projects that would increase the sustainability of regional economies and strengthen local communities. Close to the end of the call for projects, we now find ourselves completely surprised with the high number of submissions: European citizens from Central and Eastern European countries have plenty of ideas of how they could use EU funds for projects in areas such as energy efficiency, recycling, green transport.
So the citizens are ready for EU money to be channeled in the direction of green spending. We also know that investing public money in measures that lead to environmental protection or de-carbonisation of economies comes with significant economic benefits in the form of job creation as well as savings for both national and regional budgets and individual households.
Last week, together with Friends of the Earth Europe and WWF, we launched a map of good projects financed across Europe from the current Cohesion Policy. On the map, we placed investments from the EU Budget in areas such as efficient housing or public transport which not only lead to reduced emissions but also significantly alleviate costs for families. Our examples support a well-known analysis of the European Commission according to which investing to improve energy efficiency in Europe by 20 percent in the next decade could bring not only energy savings but also create 2 million jobs in the next ten years as well as save each family in the EU up to 1,000 euros annually.
This is the kind of spending that is needed at a time of multiple crises. Even though cutting one hundred million euros from the proposed one trillion EU Budget for the next seven years is no small change, what will make more impact than this hundred million euros more or less is how the money will be allocated and how quality expenditure at national level is ensured.
This is why, in the midst of the Brussels war over the budget, environmental groups like ours insist on reminding decision-makers that at least 25 percent of the next EU Budget should go to low-carbon measures, as such investments are key to ensuring long-term resilience for European communities while at the same time generating jobs and savings. Furthermore, the budget must include checks to ensure that authorities at national and sub-national levels act according to their commitments: it is not enough that everyone pays lip service to sustainability while in Brussels and then forgets about it when getting off the plane back home. The next EU Budget must allocate money cleverly and must contain mechanisms to ensure this precious public resource is used where most beneficial in times of crisis.
Our work has shown that good spending from the EU Budget is possible and brings significant benefits to communities on the ground. We have also seen that European citizens want more environmental spending and that green investments stimulate the economy. Is there any reason, then, for decision-makers in Brussels and the national capitals to drag their feet on making a proper, solid green next Budget for the EU?
Markus Trilling is EU Funds coordinator for CEE Bankwatch Network.
Institution: EU Funds