Representatives of the 27 EU Member States and the European Parliament met on Tuesday for the first time since the start of the budget conciliation procedure on 1 November to try and find compromises on the priorities and size of the EU’s 2012 budget.
Buzek: Promote growth and investment
At the start of the meeting, Parliament’s President Buzek referred to what he called its “clear and targeted budgetary choices”. “The core priority behind Parliament’s choices is the ambition to promote growth and investment in the EU, and thus to contribute to Europe’s faster recovery from the crisis. [-] There are obviously still core points that need to be settled. With goodwill on both sides, I am sure we can find an acceptable compromise some half way between our respective positions.”
A realistic budget
EP Budgets Committee chair Alain Lamassoure warned that too low an increase in payment appropriations for the 2012 budget – the Council had proposed +2.02% – might be misleading for citizens as the Commission estimates 4,9% increase is necessary. “Last year the Council insisted on a maximum increase of 2,91%, whereas both the Commission and Parliament warned that it would be too low with all the investment programmes taking off at a crucial moment. The result is that we now have to repair the budget for 2011 by adding extra funds. The 2011 budget has now already increased by over 3.35% and might increase even more. We have to avoid having to do the same thing this time next year.”
The Council wants to limit the increase in payments to 2.02%, which is more or less in line with inflation. Parliament proposes a higher budget, in line with Commission estimates, as a starting position with emphasis on growth and jobs and democratic development in the EU’s neighbouring countries. Most of the proposed increases are due to the fact that large investment programmes in the fields of employment and research and developments are now – at the near start of the 6th year of the current seven year financial framework – in full swing.
Hot potatoes in the negotiations will be the financing of the prestigious nuclear fusion project ITER. The Council and Commission want this to be financed from research money within the budget, whereas the Parliament says that this new project should not eat up funds that were planned for other research projects. The budget increases proposed by Parliament for research and innovation projects and for Palestine and the development co-operation instruments for Asia and Latin America are problematic. The same goes for the decreases Parliament proposes for Common Foreign and Security Policy actions.
Parliament’s rapporteurs Francesca Balzani (S&D, IT) and José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT) will pursue the negotiations continuously with the Polish Presidency. A trilogue meeting is planned for Monday 14 November, followed by another conciliation meeting on Friday 18 November. The conciliation ends on Monday 21 November.