The vote on the overall EU budget for 2014-2020 came a day after the Parliament's development committee agreed to cut the European Development Fund 11%. The EDF provides aid to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations.
The budget proposal for EU external relations, including aid, is expected to fall by some 13%. The Commission proposed a budget of €70 billion, while the Council opted for €60.67 billion, a difference of €9.3 billion.
The overall EU budget for 2014-2020 is smaller than its predecessor. It goes down to 1% from 1.12% of EU gross national income. It is the first net reduction to the EU budget in history.
Experts ‘expected worse’
Eight members of the development committee signed an open letter last month complaining about budget cuts in development aid and humanitarian assistance at a time when the EU has pledged to take a lead role in future development policy.
Before the vote, MEPs had urged EU ministers to reject a proposal by Council President Herman Van Rompuy to slash the EU’s development and humanitarian aid. Speaking about the portion of the budget allocated for development, MEPs warned that "Cutting this investment would be a false economy and hit the world’s poorest."
The budget deal, the letter says, "should protect this investment which represents only 6% of the total budget and has significant impact. In the past five years it had paid for more than 10 million children to go to primary school and provided 32 million with clean water.”
Although MEPs have voiced concern about cuts in development, much bigger cuts were anticipated.
“We seriously regret that more funds have not been allocated and there is of course a sense of disappointment, but considering the overall environment it could have been far worse” said Lars Bosselman, chairman of the Concord NGO's working group on the budget.
“It will be difficult for the EU to have global credibility without more external funds, but considering the crisis atmosphere many expected even more cuts in the development sector,” he told EurActiv.