A provisional agreement on the European Union budget for 2015 and the means to settle this year’s most urgent unpaid bills was reached by negotiators for the European Parliament and the European Council on December 8.
The deal still needs to be endorsed both by the full Parliament and the Council. For payments, MEPs secured 4.8 billion euro more to pay bills for 2014-2015. For 2015, the negotiators agreed to a compromise of 145.3 billion euro in commitments and €141.2 billion in payments.
“The winding down of a pile of unpaid bills has been Parliament’s quintessential goal,” European Parliament budgets committee head French liberal MEP Jean Arthuis said.
“We cannot go on rolling invoices over from year to year due to a lack of resources, just watching as cash-strapped contractors suffer and the EU loses its credibility as a reliable partner,” he said.
“We know member states’ difficulties, but it was the member states themselves which agreed to enter into contracts that need to be paid. The bills of the EU are also part of their debt,” Arthuis said.
The total amount of pending claims rose from five billion eurp in 2010 to 23.4 billion euro at the start of this year, and without the top-up that the European Parliament fought for, it would rise further, threatening an eventual collapse of the budget, a statement said.
“The Commission, based on member states’ estimations, asked for €4.8 billion, and we supported this request,” according to Belgian ALDE MEP Gérard Deprez who led talks on the budget top-up for 2014. “But we have to know how the Commission wants to wind down the backlog by 2016,” he said.
European Parliament negotiators agreed to the 2015 budget on condition that the Commission presents a plan to reduce the amount of the unpaid bills to a sustainable level by 2016.
“We secured a substantial amount to ease the strain on contractors, like small and medium sized enterprises, local collectives, and non-governmental players,” Spanish social democrat MEP Eider Gardiazábal Rubial said.
Nevertheless this is far from what we wanted. It must be borne in mind that even though the EU budget is only one percent of EU GDP, it must act as a magnet to encourage other investors to join in,” according to Rubial, the main rapporteur on the 2015 budget.
The European Parliament negotiated 45 million euro more for the EU research and development programme Horizon 2020 and 16 million euro more for the student exchange programme Erasmus+. For foreign policy, the budget was increased by 32 million euro. Banking supervisory agencies and Frontex also received more funding.
The EU’s budget for 2015 pledges one per cent more money for projects than the previous year and suffices to deliver one per cent more payments than in 2014. Ninety-four per cent of this amount is spent in and by the member states, and only six per cent is used to run the EU. The draft budget is presented by the Commission and amended by the Council and the Parliament.
To seal the compromise reached in the budgetary talks, the Council must approve the agreed text, followed by the Budgets Committee and the full Parliament. The latter two votes will take place at the European Parliament’s last plenary session this year in Strasbourg, on December 15 to 18.