The European Parliament reversed the Council’s proposed cuts in research and employment expenditure in 2014 in a plenary vote in Strasbourg on Wednesday. MEPs also reversed cuts in funding for international policy, such as humanitarian aid to the Middle East and Syrian refugees and added funds for the external border control agency Frontex.
Parliament proposes a 2014 budget of €142.6 billion in commitments and €136.1 billion in payments. These amounts are down on this year’s budget by €8.1 billion (commitments) and €4.3 billion (payments). The Council had previously reduced the Commission’s budget proposal by €240 million in commitments and €1.06 billion in payments, to €141.8 billion and €134.8 billion respectively.
Ms Anne Jensen (ALDE, DK), who is steering the budget through Parliament, stressed that the budget for refugees in the Middle East must reflect real needs. “The EU must live up to its promises and obligations. I certainly think everybody understands the seriousness of the situation and the need for humanitarian aid in the area”, she said.
Committee chair Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR) cited the many outstanding budgetary issues. “We have negotiations ahead on a jumbo package, including the amending budgets for 2013, the 2014 budget and the MFF 2014-2020. Parliament is taking its responsibility this week by fast-tracking draft amending budget 6, which is needed to enable the Commission to pay the bills due from next month onwards. All of us, Council, Commission and Parliament, will now have to take their responsibilities in the difficult negotiations ahead. But let one thing be clear: Parliament will not allow deficits to be rolled over to next year.”
In areas that MEPs believe are vital to boost the economy, such as the digital agenda, research, entrepreneurship and (youth) employment measures, Parliament followed the Budgets Committee’s recommendations to reverse the €629 million payment cuts proposed by the Council in July and to top up the budget with an extra €34 million.
For aid to the Middle East and refugees, MEPs voted to reinstate the €250 million which the Commission included in the draft budget and to top up this amount with an additional €50 million. They also voted to add funds for humanitarian aid, especially in view of the situation in Syria.
Following the plenary vote, Parliament and Council have a 21-day “conciliation” period in which to strike an agreement. If conciliation produces an agreement, it will be put to a final vote at the November session. Parliament’s position was approved with 480 votes in favour, 119 against and 86 abstentions.
Meanwhile Parliament is waiting for the Council to approve amending budget N° 8 (€3.9 billion). This amount is needed to cover this year’s budgetary shortfall and the Council’s approval of it is a prerequisite for Parliament to give its blessing to the EU’s long-run budget for 2014-2020. Another amending budget (N°.9) which should cover aid to Germany, Austria and Czech Republic to repair this year’s flood damage and help Romania to cope with the aftermath of a drought, also still needs to be agreed.