The European Parliament backed by a large majority the EU budget for 2018 on Wednesday (25 October), earning praise from NGOs for increasing funds for humanitarian and development aid. But the EU Council said it cannot accept all the MEPS’ amendments.
MEPs set the overall EU budget for 2018 at €162.6 billion (+1.2% on the Commission’s draft budget) for commitments and €146.7 billion (+0.9%) for payments.
In comparison, the Commission proposed setting the total level of commitments at €160.6 billion and payments at €145.4 billion.
But member states on 12 July decided to cut the Commission’s proposals by €1.2 billion. The European Parliament deplored this “mechanical” cut, while NGOs denounced the decrease of development aid and its re-directing to combat immigration.
The resolution on Parliament’s position on the EU’s 2018 budget was approved by 414 votes to 163, with 90 abstentions.
— Siegfried Muresan (@SMuresan) October 25, 2017
NGOs hailed the Parliament vote and the priority they gave to poverty eradication, and in particular the MEP’s rejection of the Commission’s proposal, which had suggested a 6.7% reduction in development aid. ONE, Save the Children, Oxfam and Plan International welcomed the MEPs decision.
— Valentina Barbagallo (@v_barbagallo) October 25, 2017
But the Council told the Parliament that it cannot accept all the amendments. This triggers a three-week conciliation process, starting on 31 October. Council and Parliament will have until 20 November to bridge their differences.
— PubAffairs EU News (@PubAffairsEU) October 25, 2017
As a follow up to last week’s EU summit, MEPs also cut the pre-accession funds for Turkey by €50 million (with a further €30 million put in reserve) in view “of the worrying deterioration of the situation as regards democracy, rule of law and human rights”.
Märt Kivine, deputy finance minister of Estonia, which currently holds the Council presidency, and chief negotiator for the 2018 budget said: “The presidency is looking for structured and constructive discussions while edging towards a reasonable and sustainable budget decision for 2018”.
The Council stresses that the two institutions share the same priorities for 2018, namely to boost growth and job creation, strengthen security and address migration. In the Council’s view, the main task will be to find an agreement on an adequate level of funding for these priorities.
One of the most contentious issues, not mentioned by the Council, is foreign aid. The Commission had suggested to reduce the total funds under the ‘EU as a Global Player’ (heading 4) part of the text by €232 million compared to 2017 levels, i.e. 5.6% cut and a cut of 6.7% to development aid. The Council has proposed to further cut the former by €90 million.
Conversely, the Parliament has followed the proposal of the Budgets Committee to increase EU’s external spending by €232 million:
- €12.5 million for human development (health and education);
- €12.5 million for food security, nutrition and agriculture;
- € 38.1 million for humanitarian aid (including €10 million reserve to education in humanitarian settings);
- €119 million for the Mediterranean (European Neighbourhood Instrument);
- €27 million for the Eastern Partnership (European Neighbourhood Instrument);
- €16 million for UNRWA – Palestinian refugees (European Neighbourhood Instrument);
NGOs consider that funding under heading 4 should not prioritise migration control and EU borders protection over poverty eradication. They say that such an approach contradicts the EU treaties which determine that poverty reduction and eradication should be the primary objectives of development cooperation.