EU Solidarity Fund money for six Central European countries hit by floods last year is being delayed owing to disagreement between Parliament’s Budgets Committee and the Council of Ministers over the financing of the aid.
Members of the Budgets Committee criticise the Council for rigorously sticking to the maximum payment increase of 2.91%, which was the result of tough negotiations on the 2011 budget, instead of finding a sustainable solution for dealing with unforeseen events.
A majority of the Budgets Committee strongly disagrees with the way the Council proposes to finance the support for the countries hit, which is by creating a ‘negative reserve’. A negative reserve can amount to a maximum of €200 million a year, which implicates that it will be almost exhausted after deciding on the current proposal to mobilise €182.4 million for Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Romania.
The chair of the Budgets Committee, Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR), said “recourse to this archaic approach [of a negative reserve] does not provide a solution”. He referred to the declaration signed by the Member States in last year’s budget round, which says the EU will live up to its payment obligations. This declaration was added after MEPs expressed concern that the level of payments for 2011 might be insufficient to meet the EU’s financing obligations. “We need to find an agreement to deal with unforeseen events”, he insisted.
Criticising the refusal of the Council to add fresh money, Derek Vaughan (S&D, UK) explicitly pointed at the UK: “The UK blocks this because the Prime Minister gave his word to stick to the 2.91% increase in payments. Is this going to happen every time from now on?” Salvador Garriga (EPP, ES) and Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE) also argued that the Council should live up to its declaration. Mr Garriga said “I cannot think of anything more urgent.”
László Surján (EPP, HU) agreed that “fresh money” should be added by an amending budget but said he would rather go along with the proposal that is now on the table “to show solidarity and avoid embarrassment to people who have already waited a year for financial support”.
MEPs hope a meeting with the Hungarian Council Presidency and the Commission (a trialogue) on 30 March will bring a solution to the deadlock so that the funding can be provided soon and a structural approach to dealing with unforeseen events put in place. Mr Lamassoure said he would be curious to know how the Member States themselves interpret last year’s declaration.
The Hungarian Presidency representative urged quick action, saying she hoped for “a technical solution to this political problem”.