MEPs are rushing to get an agreement on how EU funds will be spent on regions in the next budgetary period (2014-2020), but it remains to be seen how 'green' the proposal will be with some lawmakers saying it retains subsidies for non-climate-friendly gas and oil projects.
Parliament’s regional development committee is holding a first vote on the general EU funds outline next week (11 July). A positive vote will give the European Parliament a negotiating mandate with EU countries, but will not represent the Parliament’s final decision on the EU’s next budget.
Its position will be drawn on the European Commission’s 2011 proposal for the EU’s 2014-2020 budget. The Commission’s proposal was seen as a major revamp and called for a simplification of procedures, but at the same time for more performance analysis.
The regional development committee is the first to get an official position on the budget, or multi-annual financial framework, having already agreed “on all the building blocks”.
However, its members contradict themselves when it comes to allocating certain funds specifically for climate-friendly projects.
Easy on climate – and oil
The Council has already agreed to allocate a part of the bloc’s regional funding for environmental projects. For this purpose, a minimum 12% would be taken from the European Regional and Development Fund (ERDF), which forms part of the Cohesion Funds aimed at helping Europe’s regions develop.
The European Parliament also embraces this allocation. “I am safeguarding this balance,” ?said Dutch MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, who co-drafted the EU funds regulation with German MEP Constanze Krehl on behalf of the Parliament.
“I promised [climate action] Commissioner Hedegaard to stick to it and not water it down,” van Nistelrooij said, “but what might be brought under this will be up for debate.”
One of the amendments that will be debated and which green groups have complained about was put forward by Polish MEP Jan Olbrycht, of the centre-right European People’s Party.
Olbrycht suggested improving energy efficiency and increasing energy security through the “construction and modernisation of electricity, natural gas and oil transmission and distribution networks, natural gas and oil storage infrastructure, as well as liquefied natural gas infrastructure.”
He has previously said that that cutting carbon dioxide emissions “is not the first aim of the cohesion policy”. Relating it strictly to climate-related actions leaves member states little room for manoeuvre, he said.
His Polish centre-right colleague, MEP Bogus?aw Sonik supports the same allocation for oil and gas distribution networks as Olbrycht.
And Romanian MEPs Iosif Matula and Marian-Jean Marinescu also favour developing “distribution systems for natural gas” with ERDF money.
Romanian social-democrat MEP Victor Bo?tinaru, however, told EURACTIV he doubted their wishes would come survive, since, he said, the EU’s 2014-2020 cohesion funds are meant to fund high-efficiency cooling and heating networks.
Struggling for a good negotiating hand
In drafting the bill, van Nistelrooij and Krehl have squeezed the over 3,000 proposed amendments from all MEPs into about 100 compromise articles. Negotiations between political parties started in November 2011 and yesterday (5 July) the different political groups presented their proposals, in a common effort to reach a deal on 11 July.
“First we make the policy and then the budget, not the other way around,” van Nistelrooij said, saying he agreed on this approach with Krehl in order “not to lose time”. The other committees are still waiting for specific figures to fill the gaps currently marked with “X” in the break-down of the budget.
Van Nistelrooij fears the Council, represented by the 27 member states, is moving “too fast” on the EU budget for 2014-2020 and that the Parliament risks not having a significant role or opinion in how the money is spent.