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European Parliament MPs: do not drag the EU in debts

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European Union’s seven year budget should be strong and flexible enough to strengthen the union’s economy and job market, noted the majority of the European Parliament’s (EP) political groups during Wednesday’s, November 21, debates.

Debates were organized with the European Council’s emergency summit. This meeting is scheduled for November 22. This will give EU political forces an opportunity to reach an agreement in regard to the long-term EU budget for 2014-2020. The council will need to unanimously approve the budget. The same goes for EP.

“The Commission’s proposed budget should be reduced,” – said Cyprus EU Affairs Minister Andreas Mavroyiannis, referring to the difficult budget conditions of European countries. He represented the Council in the debates. He pointed out that the European Council Chairman Herman Van Rompuy’s last budget proposals have “all the conditions for us to reach an agreement.” Rompuy’s proposals offer to set the next seven-year budget to be 80 billion EUR smaller than the European Commission’s proposed 1 033 billion EUR.

Discussions about the budget are somewhat of a “test of EU’s legitimacy,” – noted Chairman of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. “Many simply express acceptance – the budget should be reduced – as if that would not mean much. However, even slight changes to the EU budget would mean big changes for people dependable on the funding of EU programs. Every billion we take away from the Horizon 2020 means that 4 000 small and medium enterprises lose funding,” – said Barroso.

Jaseph Daul warned that a budget that is less than 1% of EU’s co-revenue “will be unable to continue currently developing programs.” Reminding that 517 MPs demanded a strong EU budget during the vote, he once again pointed out that the budget needs to be stable; it needs to ensure that the EU can take responsibility for its plans and promises. “Investing in the future is the only way to exit the crisis,” – said Daul.

Leader of the Socialist and Democratic group Hannes Swoboda criticized the “everyone for himself” attitude of several countries. “Some are proposing to cut 50 billion, some – 80 billion, 100 billion and even 200 billion…this kind of behaviour is disgraceful and regressive, as if the EU budget is merely number of a piece of paper,” – he said, adding that the EU needs “enough money to function as it is.”

The leader of the liberal group Guy Verhofstadt, on the other hand, compared the EU budget to that of the member states: “This discussion is laughable. We are only discussion 1% of general EU revenue, which is much smaller than Belgium’s or Austria’s annual budgets. As a comparison, the budgets of Germany and France are 8 to 10 times larger than EU’s budget. The EU budget needs to be strong, because only uniting our strengths on the EU level we can overcome problems on the level of member states. We need to be ready to block any proposals regarding the size of the budget that are smaller than the Commission’s proposed budget,” – he said.

Helga Tripele, who stood as the representative of the Green group, said “Chancellor Merkel was wrong, when she said that 27 member states have decided to invest 3% of national revenue in research and development. She is the leader of the “big spenders” group, who in reality want to reduce R&D funding by 12%, while working in the shadow of the current presidency.”

Gabriele Zimmer from the left wing (GUE/NGL) noted that additional funds requested by the Commission, only reflect the newly trusted expenses of the EU. These expenses have nothing to with the increase of administrative expenses. “For example, how can the EU continue to combat social marginalisation and poverty by taking away money from the poorest? The Council needs to change its attitude and country leaders need to grow above national interests,” – said the politician.

Leader of the conservative group – Martin Kalanan – criticized those, who say “any problem can be resolved by increasing EU’s influence.” He denied the claim that the EU budget is an investment budget, because 40% of the EU budget funds are spent on agricultural grants, while 6% – on administrative expenses. Kalanan did note, however, that the size of the Cohesion budget should be preserved for at least those countries that actually require these funds.

Representative of the European sceptics Europe of Freedom and Democracy – Nigel Farage: “It is very interesting that the EU wants to take away another trillion EUR from EU taxpayers, in spite of the fact that it continues to fails to conclude its budget costs for 18 consecutive years. If the EU was a company, its Director – the Commission – would have been locked up in prison a long time ago.”

Speaking about the main reasons for the current dead end in budget discussions, Chairman of the EP Martin Schulz noted that “many EP member states do not want to stay true to their promises. They want the EU to adopt a budget with a deficit. The mentioned countries can do so at home, but the parliament will not agree to this.”

Schulz notes that these countries refuse to accept budget amendments that would allow the Commission to pay back the money the countries invested in European projects even despite the fact that, in the past, they agreed to take action immediately if some lack of funds needed to be compensated.

Refusal to accept amendments in this year’s budget was the reason why the discussions ended up in a dead end on November 13. The commission is required to submit a new budget on November 23. After that, discussions will start once again between the Parliament and Council during a plenary meeting of December 10-13.


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