The discrepancy between political commitments and budgetary engagements will make an agreement at the 22-23 November summit very difficult, says MEP Ivailo Kalfin, one of the two European Parliament rapporteurs on the 2014-2020 EU budget.
Kalfin, speaking to EURACTIV in an exclusive interview, said leaders easily committed to new projects, but had second thoughts when authorising their financing.
He said that the last example of unfulfilled promises was the June European Council when the heads of the member states decided to support the growth and jobs compact with €150 billion. There is no such commitment in the ‘negotiating box’ tabled by Council President Herman Van Rompuy, he said, nor in a previous budget proposal tabled by the Cypriot Presidency.
As another example of leaders not abiding by their word, Kalfin mentioned the lack of agreement for the correction budget for 2012.
EU coffers ran empty under the 2012 budget for programmes that include priority areas such as education, youth and research. On 23 October the Commission tabled a remedial budget demanding further contributions from member states to safeguard the programme in the 2012 EU budget, to the amount of roughly €9 billion.
“The pending €9 billion until the end of October of the European budget [for 2012] is not new money," Kalfin told EURACTIV, adding that EU leaders who oppose the payment suggest transferring it to next year.
"That would mean that if there is no change and no agreement the European Commission is going to stop payments in the middle of 2013. In any case we cannot say that this is matching commitments with appropriate budgetary engagements of the member states.”
Kalfin pointed out the different approaches of the European Parliament, the Council president and the rotating presidency with respect with the long-term EU budget.
“Mr Van Rompuy and the [Cypriot] presidency try to accommodate 27, sometimes very divergent national opinions. What the Parliament says is that this exercise is about setting the policies of the European Union until 2020,” the MEP said.
He also argued that instead of making across-the-board budget cuts, a more honest approach would be for the heads of state and government to decide which common policies they would agree to drop or postpone.
Kalfin also made it plain that the European Parliament would not accept any deal from the summit.
“The question is do we need a bad budget or no budget at all, or more time for negotiation. The Parliament would like to have an agreement now. But we are not going to accept any agreement,” he said.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the budget has to be adopted by unanimity in the Council but after having been agreed by the Parliament, Kalfin said.
The MEP argued that even if the summit ends up without an agreement, the discussion would be beneficial. Kalfin, who was Bulgaria’s foreign minister during the negotiation of the previous budget for 2007-2014, said he had seen major misunderstandings at the summit table.
“I have seen amazingly in the different member states that they have different visions and even different bases for comparisons to do with the European budget. Very often member states and responsible people are mixing commitments and payments in the budget and are mixing which year to be taken as a basis for a freeze for example… There are piles of misunderstandings,” he said.
Asked if there was a way to circumvent a British veto of the budget, he made it plain that this was not possible, but also not in the interest of London. In the absence of a budget, annual spending would be linked to inflation.
“If there is no agreement this is not the end of the world. The EU is going to continue functioning and the treaty also has a provision how that could happen. By the way, that would mean then that the UK and all those who want to decrease the budget would have to pay more than they wish.”