EP insists on renegotiation of enlargement financing deal

The Conference of Presidents of political groups
in the European Parliament has put additional pressure on the
Council to renegotiate the financing deal on enlargement. At
its meeting on 13 March, the Conference fired a warning shot to
the Council by not adopting the agenda of the April plenary
session where the Accession Treaty is to be
ratified.

The Conference of Presidents decided not to adopt the
agenda of the April plenary session to send a political
signal to the Council that the Parliament will not accept
this breach of the inter-institutional agreement which
gives the Parliament a say on budgetary matters.

In the Parliament’s view, the inclusion
of maximum spending figures in a treaty contravenes the
Interinstitutional Agreement of 6 May 1999, according to
which any adjustment to the financial perspective in the
event of enlargement is a matter for a joint decision by
the Council and the European Parliament.

It also introduces discrimination
between current and future Member States, which would be
subject to different rules, and it runs counter to the
provisions of the treaties currently in force.

The Conference of Presidents therefore
decided that if Annex XV was not amended or withdrawn, it
would constitute a breach of the Interinstitutional
Agreement and Parliament would have to draw the appropriate
conclusions. If the principle of a multi-annual financial
perspective were to be questioned, the EU would have to
revert to annual negotiations, as in the past.

The Committee of Permanent
Representatives (COREPER) decided on 12 March to use the
Commission’s proposal for a Decision on the adjustment of
the financial perspective for enlargement as the basis for
the Council’s discussion of this issue. The Commission
proposed that over the period 2004-2006, the annual
spending ceilings shall be raised by the corresponding
expenditure requirements resulting from the accession of
ten new Member States.

 

Following his meeting on 11 March with Council
President-in-Office Georgios Papandreou, European
Parliament President
Pat Cox

said: "We must do everything to prevent the real problem
facing us today from turning into a crisis which would
affect both enlargement and Parliament's budgetary powers".
According to Mr Cox, there is no question of an
institutional quarrel nor of taking enlargement hostage.

The Chairman of EPP-ED Parliamentary
Group
Hans-Gert Poettering

stated that the enlargement of the EU is not in question.
He expressed hope that "urgent negotiations on Annex XV
with the Council of Ministers could arrive at a common
solution before the April plenary session of
Parliament".

Mr Poettering warned that the "one-sided
decision by the Council represents a breach of the
Inter-institutional Agreement between Parliament and
Council on budgetary matters". "The consequence of this is
that Parliament for its part no longer regards the
Agreement as valid and therefore in the future Parliament
will have more freedom in financial and budgetary
questions," he added.

The Commission

said it was convinced the dispute between the Parliament
and the Council over the financing of enlargement would not
delay the signature of the Accession Treaty on 16 April
2003.

 

The ratification of the Accession Treaty in the European
Parliament, due to take place on 9 April, is the legal
pre-requisite for the formal signing of the treaty in
Athens on 16 April. However, the Parliament refuses to
ratify the Treaty in its current form because the deal on
the financing of enlargement, attached to the Treaty as
Annex XV, takes away from the Parliament its power of
co-decision over the EU budget by incorporating the
budgetary transfers to the new Member States.

Annex XV, dealing with agriculture,
structural policy, internal policies and administration,
establishes maximum spending levels for the ten new Member
States for each year until 2006. These figures were
negotiated at the European Council in Copenhagen in
December 2002.

 

The ratification of the Accession Treaty in the European
Parliament should in principle take place at the plenary
session of the European Parliament planned for 7-11 April.

Mr Cox, the President of the Commission
Romano Prodi, and the Greek Prime Minister Costa Simitis,
President-in-office of the European Council, are to meet on
19 March, on the eve of the Spring Summit, to discuss the
matter.

Parliament will hold a plenary debate on
this question at the session 26-27 March in Brussels.

 

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