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MEPs adopt first reading position on EU budget for 2009 at €136 billion

Posted by benjamin-nicolau en octubre 23, 2008

MEPs adopt first reading position on EU budget for 2009 at €136 billion

Budget – 23-10-2008 – 12:14 

The European Parliament adopted the 2009 draft budget substantially higher than that adopted by Council in its July first reading. Commitments are set at €136 bn (1.04 % of GNI), payments are €124.5 bn (equivalent of 0.959% of EU GNI). Council had adopted a draft budget of 133.9bn in commitments and €114.9 bn in payments. With this vote, Parliament has stayed within the margins of the Financial Perspective.

Accordingly to the EU’s commitments, the fight against climate change, the EU’s social dimension and security questions are Parliament’s priorities for 2009. External relations stay, as usual, a baffling problem because this budget heading has been under funded ever since the current financial perspective was adopted. The gap between the forecasts of financial needs (“commitments”) and programmed expenditure (“payments”) entered in the draft 2009 budget by the Council has never been so wide as this year. MEP believe that the Council’s cuts had made it impossible to meet the EU’s commitments and decided to diminish this disparity.

 

Heading 1a & 1b “Sustainable growth”

The EP is seeking to expand the budget for the EU’s social and employment dimension, i.e. the policy goals mainly included in Headings 1a (Competitiveness) and 1b (Cohesion). This includes the European Social Fund (which MEPs believe should get over €135m extra for convergence, employment and growth), the Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund. A package of measures is targeted at small and medium-sized firms.

MEPs also propose an increase in the payments for the programme to improve the financial environment for SMEs.  In addition, they wish to launch pilot projects such as the Erasmus programme for entrepreneurs or measures to aid SMEs to seize opportunities to internationalise their activity.

 

Heading 2 “Natural resources”

The EP calls for the re-establishment of the figures in the PDB for CAP spending, reduced after Council’s cut. Parliament is also concerned with the fall in real terms of spending on rural development, despite the need to restructure the rural economy. MEPs want to increase by over €2bn the total spending on certain budget headings for EU measures against climate change. In many cases, it means taking greater account of climate change in existing programmes, such as rural development, transport, research and the environment. For example, MEPs wish to virtually double the payments for the LIFE+ programme. MEP also call for a new budget line for climate change in Heading 2  to make the budget more transparent and comprehensible.  This would allow measures to combat climate change and the funding allocated to this area to be grouped together.  In addition to these transferred amounts, MEPs wish to allocate €20m extra to this new heading.

 

Heading 3 “Justice and Home Affairs”

Given the urgency of immigration matters, the Parliament proposes an increase for the agency managing EU external borders (Frontex plus €10 million in commitments and payments to a total of €55 million but 5 million are put in reserve). This extra many should be devoted to enable Frontex to sustain the comitment to permanent missions at the Southern EU borders.

 

The EP suggest as well as to increase the funds for external borders, to refugee Fund and emergency measures in the event of mass influxes of refugees.

 

MEPs consider that there is no justification for the Council’s cuts in credits aiming to finance Schengen Information System (SIS II) and visas information system and propose to reinstate the PDB amounts.

 

Heading 4 “the EU as a global partner”

The EP wants to keep the amounts for European security and defence policy laid down in the Commission’s PDB.  It would also preserve the EU funding for Palestine proposed in the PDB and increased by the Commission in its amending letter (€300m in commitments and €280m in payments). Funding for aid to Kosovo, financed from several different headings, is also the same as the amount proposed by the Commission.  Aid for reconstruction in Afghanistan (€160m in commitments and €150 in payments) also remains at the same level as in the PDB.

 

Parliament has stayed within the ceiling of heading 4. However, the experience of past years clearly shows that these figures are not enough.  MEPs therefore wish to persuade the Council to grant more money to external policy.  The money needed could be found by, for example, using the flexibility mechanism or emergency aid. This will be a crucial issue at the negotiations on 21 November. An amendment adopted by the Budgets Committee groups together all the policy priorities for which the budget does not cover the extra funding demanded by MEPs (which would exceed the allowed ceilings of €390m). It includes new objectives which have recently emerged: food aid for developing countries and reconstruction aid for Georgia. MEPs included the amount needed in 2009 for food aid accordingly to the EC proposal (€250m under the 2009 budget).

 

Turning to the commitments given by Member States on reconstruction aid for Georgia, MEPs adopted a number of amendments to take account of the situation in that country in existing programmes and policies [Am 997, 1000, 1026] as stability instrument, European Neighborhood Policy or humanitarian Aid. However, Parliament cannot allocate directly funding for the reconstruction of Georgia while there is no legal basis.  MEPs therefore decided to create a special budget line for aid to Georgia but without granting it any funding, pending the outcome of the donors’ conference

 

Heading 5 “administration

On the question of the posts at the Commission, for which Council had proposed a major cut, Parliament has reinstated the initial funding put forward by the Commission in its pre-draft budget. 50m go in the reserve, though, which will be released if a number of conditions are fulfilled. One of these conditions features a “screening” of administrative needs to be done by the Commission as well as a redeployment plan.

 

Other institutions

The so-called “other institutions”, for which Mr Janusz Lewandowski (PPE-DE, PL) is the rapporteur, deal among others with Parliament’s budget for next year.  The EP’s draft budget set a level of 1.530 millions in commitments and payments.  It represents 19.67 % of heading 5, then only a minimal increase in comparison with the previous budget.  This increase is justified by the entry into force of the statute for Members of the EP as well as introduction of unified transparent regulations for employment of parliamentary assistants in Brussels and Strasbourg.

 

Next steps

The next key step now sees Parliament and Council engaged in the second conciliation on 21 November, aiming to strike an agreement before the second-reading.  The 2009 Budget should be approved and signed in December in Strasbourg.

 

 

Source UE

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