S&D MEP: Council wants to decide alone on next EU budget

The European Parliament and the Commission want to conclude the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiation before the mandate of both EU institutions expires at the start of 2019. [Parti socialiste/Flickr]

The European Council’s intention to conclude the negotiations about the next Multiannual Financial Framework toward the end of 2019 is the “worst timing” and shows that it wants to decide alone, socialist MEP Isabelle Thomas told EURACTIV.com in Strasbourg on Wednesday (25 October).

The European Parliament and the Commission want to conclude the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiation before the end of the mandate of both EU institutions, at the start of 2019.

However, the EU leaders decided last week to conclude the MFF at the end of 2019, meaning after the EU-wide election in June that year.

But for Isabelle Thomas, a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, this is the worst timing for the Commission and the Parliament.

“That means that the Council wants to decide alone. For me it’s clear. I understand because 80% [of funds] come from the Council so according to its mindset, payers are also the decision-makers,” the French socialist MEP told EURACTIV.

Thomas, who is also a member of the budget committee, explained that the issue had a practical aspect as there will be no time for the EU’s elected lawmakers to be effectively involved in the process.

She said that a number of procedures would need to take place after the June 2019 election, such as voting for the committees and the presidents, and it will thus be impossible to hold discussions before October 2019.

“In addition, the Parliament has the hearings of the new Commissioners and first the governments need to select them. In fact, there is no time for negotiation,” she said.

The French MEP, however, warned the EU Council that the budget cannot be approved without consent from the Parliament.

“They forget something […] that we built democracy and that they need the consent of the Parliament and this will not come at the end of 2019.”

Another concern for the European Parliament is also the rise of extreme nationalist parties on a national level, which might be reflected in the next European Parliament.

“Nationalists everywhere in Europe is not good news for the MFF because by definition they oppose an increased EU budget,” she said, adding that politically it would be better for this Parliament, rather than the next, to decide on the next MFF.

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More challenges means more money

The vast majority of MEPs (442) voted on 24 October in favour of a resolution for the future EU finances, stressing that the current MFF had inefficiencies that did not match the actual political needs and ambitions of the EU.

“We cannot increase the challenges and decrease the budget,” Thomas said, adding that since the 2008 crisis, more and more legitimate challenges, such as lack of investment, unemployment and migration have been added on the EU agenda.

“In addition to these, we have the defence and the eurozone, as President Juncker recently pointed out to have a line in the next budget. More and more challenges and less money […] we cannot continue in this situation,” the socialist politician noted.

The resolution also calls for an increase in EU’s own resources. Right now, the EU budget is comprised of 80% of national contributions and 20% of EU’s own resources.

Moreover, it stated that it was high time to raise the 1% ceiling for the expenditure of the EU Gross National Income.

“The next MFF should be set at the level of at least 1.23% of the EU’s GNI.”

Last January, the High-Level Group on Own Resources led by former Commissioner Mario Monti made a number of suggestions to increase EU own resources. The Group basically suggested a “basket” of different resources, which is better, according to Thomas, as it brings stability and predictability to avoid potential accidents.

Thomas also suggested putting an immediate stop to rebates. “For the moment, we have 52 rebates in the EU, more than 2 for each country,” she said, adding that a corporate tax could significantly help the EU budget.

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