European Parliament kicks off ‘own resources’ group

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The current leaders of the three main EU institutions launched yesterday (25 February) a high-level group on EU "own resources" to be chaired by the former prime minister of Italy, Mario Monti.

When last November the European Parliament gave its final approval to the EU long-term budget for 2014-2020, it decided that a high-level working group on “own resources” should be established to work on reforming the EU’s income arrangements.

The current system, with all its exceptions, rebates, different sources of funding and dependence on national budgets, has become overly complex.

The group is set to undertake a general review of the way in which the EU budget is funded, with a view to making the “own resources” system simpler, more transparent and more accountable. The new system should replace the current system that is dependent on member state contributions. A preliminary assessment is expected by the end of 2014.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said it was “high time” for an overhaul of the current system.

“The EU Treaty says that the EU Budget should be financed from own resources, but we are still stuck with an overly complex and outdated system full of exceptions and mostly made up by contributions from national budgets. I encourage Mr Monti to start the preparatory work as soon as possible and I look forward to discussing the first modernising proposals," Schulz said.

It was decided that the group’s members will be appointed by the three EU institutions, the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. The group will be tasked with taking account of the input of national parliaments, which will also be invited to an inter-institutional conference in 2016 to assess the outcome of the work.

Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR), Ivailo Kalfin (S&D, BG) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) will represent the European Parliament in the group. The three MEPs have a long track record as negotiators of the EU budget.

The major political groups, the European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists and Democrats and the Liberals, welcomed the initiative.

Lamassoure stated that he was “more than happy” with being part of it. Kalfin, who has recently left the group of the Bulgarian Socialist MEPs because of political differences, thanked the S&D for entrusting him with the new task. The group of British Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament welcomed the setting up of the high-level group.

The UK Conservatives hit back, saying that the new system of financing the EU budget would “hand the EU its own powers to raise taxes directly from citizens in Britain”.

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