Budget Games

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

The Commission and the Council take advantage of the traditional EU decision-making lack of transparency to play “budget games” with the Parliament. But MEPs want to see all cards on the table for the EU public to see, writes Ivailo Kalfin.

Ivailo Kalfin is a Bulgarian MEP from the Socialist and Democrats group. He is a member of the Budget Committee and the co-rapporteur on the EU long term budget 2014-2020

"The fact that the Commission proposed an additional €2,7 billion to compensate the lower revenues in the EU budget from duties already indicates that there is a problem with the existing system of own resources. But the Draft Amending Budget 6 [DAB 6] raises many more questions than it settles issues. 

Only a few weeks ago the European Commission was trying to convince the Parliament that it had put everything on the table. What changed over the last weekend, so that the Commission suddenly discovered that its coffers were empty and there was an urgency and risk of default on payments? The answer is: nothing! But some pretended there were surprised. Why?

Two possible scenarios are coming to my mind. First, the Council never truly realised the threat of payments drying out. If this is the case, the Commission had to be much clearer and open with the public and the Council ministers, and explain the risks. Second, it is possible that the Council is playing games with the Parliament. Maybe the Council knew what was going on, but attempted to transfer payments from this year to the next. However, none of these possibilities is acceptable for the Parliament.

It is obviously show time. How otherwise to explain the fact that the Council found it possible to introduce in no time a written procedure for approving the €2.7 billion, while for a fourth month now they are unable to fulfill their part of the agreement reached in July on the MFF for additional €3.9 billion for 2013 in order to secure payments for outstanding invoices from beneficiaries? The Parliament cannot put itself in the position to be disregarded.

I do not understand also the budget commissioner Mr. Lewandowski who said to the Committee on Budgets on Tuesday [22 October] that the €3.9 billion was “the ideal option”, while the €2.7 billion was “the second best”. This is not an “either or” game. Let us be clear and moreover honest.

The €2.7 billion DAB is the result of the lack of sufficient own resources during the year. The €3.9 billion are calculated on the top, to cover accumulated payment claims. Both are needed and the Council should normally decide for both of them at the same time. This is not for an increase in the budget. These additional payments are needed because in previous periods the member states disbursed insufficient resources and now they have to pay the bills to the amount they had previously agreed. Hence, both amounts have to be paid and the Parliament was very clear that without covering these amounts, there can be neither MFF, nor 2014 budget.

I shall be hardly surprised if the Council says tomorrow that they will transfer the €3.9 billion to 2014 and that in the return the Parliament should no longer ask for additional budget for payments. Let us be clear – the €3.9 billion refer to the 2013 budget and transferring them to the next year is not an option. Furthermore, in case the Commission still feels exposed to possible delay in payments, it should clearly identify what beneficiaries will wait longer to collect their due amounts. Share it with us, share it with the citizens. We have the right to know."

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