Commission proposes 3% EU budget hike for 2019

Günther Oettinger, Commissioner in charge of Budget and Human Resources, during a press conference on the EC's proposal for the EU budget 2019. [Thierry Monasse]

With negotiations on the next long-term financial framework around the corner, the European Commission presented on Wednesday (23 May) its draft proposal for the 2019 EU budget with a 3% increase compared to 2018, a proposal backed by Parliament.

The text adopted by the College of Commissioners includes €166 billion in committed funds and €149 million in payments, or 3% more than the previous year.

Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger addressed the European Parliament before presenting his proposal for the 2019 budget to the press, like he did with the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) earlier this month.

The European Parliament backed the proposal, saying it was a good starting point as it matches the priorities presented in March this year. In particular, MEPs welcomed the Commission’s intention to boost support for young people in Europe, but it still called for a “greater effort”.

“Young people are at the heart of our proposal,” Commissioner Oettinger underlined before the Committee on Budgets. The draft includes a 10% increase in the allocation for Erasmus+ compared to 2018, and a further €233 million for the Youth Employment initiative.

The European Solidarity Corps, a project the Juncker Commission launched in 2016, will also see its budget allocation increase to €103 million. This, Oettinger said, is a solid base “enabling many thousands of young people to take part in this very worthy project”.

Boosting the European economy is one of the major objectives of the 2019 budget. The money allocated for boosting economic growth in the EU reached €80 billion in commitments, including €12.5 billion for Horizon 2020 (8.4% over 2018) and a major impulse for the Connecting Europe Facility, whose budget allocation grows by 36.4%.

More flexibility to fund new challenges

The Commission’s proposal aims to fund existing programmes, support new initiatives and address unexpected challenges, a plan that has already been incorporated in the long-term budget presented by Oettinger in early May.

While both cohesion and agricultural policy will remain unchanged in the 2019 EU budget, the Commission has proposed to include several budgetary provisions related to security, border control and migration.

Those will include the reform of the common European asylum system to ensure equal treatment for refugees in Europe, relief aid for Greece, the EU Agency for Asylum and the reinforcement of the external border agency Frontex.

“In order to address the ongoing challenges of migration, refugee inflows and security threats, as well as the extension of the Structural Reform Support Programme, it is necessary to mobilise significant additional amounts to finance such measures as a matter of urgency,” the Commission said.

The mobilisation of funds goes up to €927.5 million beyond the ceiling of this heading in the current long-term budget, which ends in 2020.

Furthermore, next year’s budget provides funds for new initiatives.

The creation of the European Labour Authority will require €11 million euros, €245 million will go for setting up the European Defence Industrial Development Programme and €150 million to strengthen the civil protection mechanism to respond to natural or man-made disasters in Europe.

Another €5 million is set aside for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, aimed to fight cross-border crimes and €40 million to extend the Structural Reform Support Programme.

This budget will be the last one negotiated by the current European Parliament and Commission, before the European elections in May 2019.

Both institutions are expected to be ready to discuss the budget in autumn and reach an agreement in December this year. The negotiation will inevitably go in parallel with the discussion of the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework.

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