Dods EU Briefing: MEPs to clash with Council on EU 2015 budget

The Budgets Committee today deliberated on a position on the draft EU 2015 annual budget. 

By Hendrik Meerkamp

25 Sep 2014

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On September 25, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets met for an exchange of views on the European Commission’s 2015 EU annual budget proposal.
Note that while the Council of Ministers formally adopted its position on the Commission’s draft back on September 2, the European Parliament and its Committee on Budgets is still in the process of composing a position which is scheduled to be adopted first by the Committee on Budgets in a three day-long vote from September 30 to October 1 and then by the plenary on October 21 2014. By that time, the European Parliament is also to adopt a separate resolution on the topic. After October 21, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will have to find a compromise agreement on the EU 2015 annual budget proposal.

Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, ES), co-rapporteur on the EU’s 2015 annual budget along with Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, DE), began by saying that she is in the process of intense but fruitful negotiations with representatives from the various political groups in the European Parliament, specifying that only final details are missing for a consensual agreement to be reached that has the major priorities of all main political groups reflected.

Speaking on the substance of the position to be worked out, Ms Gardiazabal Rubial stressed that many cuts proposed by the Council of Ministers in its position of September 3 on the EU 2015 annual budget will not be accepted. Rather, on the contrary, she declared, certain tools – those that are crucial to stimulate the EU economy and those that are of vital to the interest of the EU – need to be boosted and not cut, naming research and development programmes (Horizon 2020), SME support instruments, the Erasmus+ programme, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and development and external policy tools, cohesion policy programmes, and financial support for the agrifood sector (Common Agricultural Policy) in particular.

Ms Gardiazabal Rubial concluded by speaking on the current situation of acute payment shortages in the EU, the current situation in which the EU (that is, the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament) has over the last years committed a total of 26 billion EUR of EU budgetary resources to various beneficiaries but the Council of Ministers has until now been reluctant to agree to actually make the funds available for the European Commission to pay the bills, thus paralysing affected programmes. On this subject, she said that the European Parliament needs to send a strong signal to the Council of Ministers in the negotiations on the 2015 annual budget that this situation is not acceptable and that this backlog gap must be completely filled at least in the medium term.

Committee chair Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR) agreed that the payment gap the co-rapporteur referred to must not only be stabilised over time but that it must be closed as soon as possible. In this context, he declared that the Council of Ministers must come up with a proposal “that meets the expectations” of the European Parliament. He reported that it seems to him that representatives from the Italian Presidency have, fortunately, finally begun to acknowledge the presence of the problem.

José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), who spoke on behalf of the absent co-rapporteur Ms Hohlmeier, said that the 2015 EU annual budget must be in line with EU law (which stipulates that the EU must honour committed resources to beneficiaries and not go into deficit with a payments gap) and also promote growth and further solidarity internally and externally. In this context, he expressed his agreement with Ms. Gardiazabal Rubial that cuts for programmes such as Horizon 2020 or SME support measures cannot be tolerated.

Jean-Paul Denanot (S&D, FR) agreed with Mr Fernandes that the EU’s budget must be in line with EU law is not allowed to go into deficit.

He also spoke on the pledge of the incoming European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker to launch a 300 billion EUR-strong investment programme for the EU, saying that the European Parliament must keep a close watch on when and how this will actually happen.

Bernd Kölmel (ECR, DE) expressed his agreement with “much” of what had been said by colleagues before.

However, he raised concerns that at the moment, in a situation where there is a payment gap of 26 billion EUR in the EU but the European Parliament might intend to push the Council of Ministers for an immediate reduction of the gap of just some billion EUR, he fails to see how the European Parliament takes due account of its budgetary control function within the EU’s institutional framework. He added that the Council of Ministers must be pushed effectively to finally provide a comprehensive solution to the payments gap problem and that the European Parliament must not appear weak, slow, and not fully in control.

Mr. Kölmel concluded by raising fears that Mr Juncker’s 300 billion EUR investment plan (referred to above) will give rise to similar implementation problems as the current payments gap.

Indrek Tarand (Greens/EFA, EE) said that the EU’s credibility towards the beneficiaries of EU funding is at stake if the payments problem is not solved very soon and all contracts signed between the European Commission and the beneficiaries of EU programmes and tools are honoured.

Speaking on cuts advocated by the Council of Ministers for the EU’s 2015 annual budget, he remarked that it is odd that on the one hand the European Council continues to stress how important it is to make the EU more competitive but that on the other hand the Council of Ministers pushes to decrease funding for programmes such as Horizon 2020 and SME support measures which are vital to achieve just this. In order to prevent these cuts from becoming reality while however at the same time adhering to general principles of budgetary efficiency, he advocated to shift cuts to other, in his opinion less useful areas such as nuclear activities. 


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