EU ministers are pressing to conclude negotiations on the EU’s 2014-2020 budget before the term of the Irish presidency ends in June.
“It is in everybody's interest to reach an agreement on the next multiannual financial framework before the end of June,” Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said on Tuesday (21 May) after a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council where the seven-year budget framework was discussed.
Lewandowski urged the Council, where member countries sit, and the European Parliament “to look beyond the purely interinstitutional dimension of these negotiations.”
“Millions of beneficiaries of EU funds await an agreement: small and medium enterprises, medical research labs, towns and regions, students, NGOs. Those beneficiaries represent some 95% of the EU budget,” Lewandowski said in a statement.
European Parliament leaders have made it plain that they would not accept the budget as agreed by EU leaders at their 8 February summit. Parliament gained new power over the budget under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.
Lawmakers want flexibility to be introduced into the next long-term budget, including a midterm review of spending to avoid a deficit.
Later than in 2006
Lewandowski said that seven years ago, the political agreement on the 2007-2013 budget was reached in April.
“This time, we are already at the end of May and still have no agreement,” he said. “There is a serious risk that EU-funded programmes will be delayed just as Europe badly needs predictable sources of investment guaranteed by the EU budget.”
Lewandowski said the Commission supported the Parliament in making sure that “not a single euro” from the budget is lost because of procedural hurdles.
“For the European Commission, the ability to carry over unused payments from one year to another is therefore a ‘conditio sine qua non’ in the negotiations because it will allow for a sound management of the EU budget,” he said.
Eamon Gilmore, the Irish minister of foreign affairs and trade who chaired the meeting, outlined Ireland’s plans to intensify discussions with the Parliament on the budget. A further political “trilogue” meeting of the Council, Commission and Parliament is scheduled for next week.
“It is in everyone’s interest that we reach agreement on the MFF before the summer. There is nothing extra to be gained by waiting until after the summer to reach this agreement,” Gilmore said in a statement.
“The time has come for us to get down to business. We need to get down to the key issues of interest to the European Parliament,” Gilmore said.
European Parliament representatives, however, appear less optimistic regarding the possibility of an agreement before July. Danish MEP Anne Jensen (ALDE) said last week that there was “still a long way to go to bring diverging views closer together”.
Apart from the conditions on flexibility and the budget review clause, Jensen said the Parliament would insist “on a strong gesture” on self-generating revenue, meaning that EU leaders would be expected to commit to gradually replace the current system based on national contributions.