Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt is the leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament. He spoke to EurActiv's Georgi Gotev.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said that even if there is an agreement, this is not the end but the beginning of the negotiating process from you in the Parliament. Can you explain?
The treaty is very clear. You don’t need approval only by 27 heads of state and heads of government. You need also the approval of the [European] Parliament. And I don’t see it as possible that this proposal can have the approval of the Parliament.
So there is no room for negotiations, introducing some flexibility?
I think there are three main problems with the proposal that is on the table. First of all it creates a deficit of more than €50 billion in the European Union. And we don’t want a deficit. Member states cannot ask to reduce their deficits on the national level and create a deficit on the European level. That is what they are doing. That is the way they have made a bridge between the cohesion countries and the net-payer countries.
The second problem is that they make their savings mainly in growth-related expenditures. You have seen the latest proposals are cutting in infrastructure, in transport, energy, internet and research. And if you compare to the previous budget there is nearly not a difference. It is more or less the same amount, a little bit more but not substantially.
And three, own resources has completely disappeared in the proposal. In the original proposal of the Commission and of the president of the Council, there was foreseen to have an increase of own resources. That means with a VAT or an FTT [financial transactions tax] that you should finance directly the European Union so that we can stop this way of handling based on national contributions. Member states are asked to reflect on own resources for the next few years. So no increase in own resources for the next seven years, and we continue with the old-style way of handling [the budget].
When I look to the outcome I am saying what have they done for seven years? I am seeing exactly what I have seen in the Council in 2006, when Tony Blair was the chairman of the Council. And he said at that moment, ‘never again’. Well, we are here again.
So no room for negotiations, you say?
I’m not saying that. I’m saying that those are the three problems that we have to face. So if we want have an agreement between the Council and the Parliament, those are the three main topics to tackle. And if they are not tackled I don’t see the Parliament saying yes.
A secret vote?
Well, there is more standing in the Parliament to say, well, OK, we shall organise a secret vote so that everybody can decide independently and under pressure from nobody.