The European Parliament will have to scale back its demands for a 5.9% increase in the EU’s budget for 2011, an MEP involved in negotiations with the member states has admitted.
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Sidonia Jędrzejewska, a Polish centre-right MEP who drafted the Parliament’s position on the 2011 budget, said: “We have to go down with our payments expectations. That is clear.” She suggested a budget increase of 4.5% could result in a deal being struck between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
The Polish MEP acknowledged that the Parliament would have to compromise on its demands for higher spending to take account of the deep budget cuts being made in many member states.
Jędrzejewska said a letter signed by the leaders of 11 member states calling for any increase to be limited to 2.9% gave a misleading impression as more money would be needed to meet existing budget commitments. The 11 countries, led by the United Kingdom, Germany and France, drafted the letter at the summit of EU leaders on 28-29 October, saying they could not accept an increase greater than 2.9%.
“I have a problem with the 2.9% letter, because it is not honest,” she said, adding that the countries that drafted it “know very well” that more money will be required for the programmes they want to fund. “The only accounting advantage is that they will postpone the payments,” said Jędrzejewska.
She said that if the increase was limited to 2.9% there would have to be additional “piecemeal” amending budgets.
“This is not correct budgeting,” Jędrzejewska said today (8 November) ahead of a third round of budget talks with member states and the European Commission. Negotiations began on 27 October.
Jędrzejewska said there continued to be a discrepancy between what member states want from the EU budget and what they are willing to pay for. She said she expected tough negotiations on issues related to spending on the EU’s foreign policy, notably on aid to the Palestinians and previous commitments made to give aid to banana producers in former European colonies.
MEPs are also demanding the EU put aside money to pay for a possible retroactive pay rise for EU staff for 2009. The €1.4 billion needed for 2012-13 to build the international experimental nuclear fusion reactor (ITER) in southern France will also have to be found from next year’s budget.
Council officials said member states were willing to compromise on meeting the Parliament’s priorities for the 2011 budget, but within the 2.9% limit. Those priorities include cross-border student exchanges, training and life-long learning projects linked to boosting growth and competitiveness. The Council had cut these areas in its August budget proposal.
A final round of budget negotiations is planned for Thursday (11 November), but officials say an extra round has been tentatively planned for Monday (15 November).