Europe’s austerity budget
EU executive seeks 6-per-cent cut in 2014 spending
26 June 2013
dpa International Service in English
Brussels (dpa) – The European Union's executive proposed Wednesday to spend 136 billion euros (178 billion dollars) in 2014 – a cut of 6 per cent on this year's budget – amid a row over how much to spend over the next seven years.
The budget left no “big margins,” said EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski as he presented it in the European Parliament.
Lawmaker Eida Gardiazabal Rubial, of the Socialists & Democrats, said it was “not very heartening” to see reductions of up to 12 per cent proposed in some areas.
Alda Sousa, of the far-left GUE/NGL, criticized the “austerity budget,” adding that cuts in rural development, asylum and migration funding and other programmes helping the less well-off were “verging on the ridiculous.”
Member states have sought to limit spending in times of austerity, while the European Parliament is fighting to maximize resources, by introducing flexibility clauses and a revision of the budget in a few years' time, hoping that the worst of the crisis will then be over.
The 2014 budget must be adopted by the European Parliament, but lawmakers must first approve the bloc's next seven-year spending framework, which is supposed to come into effect on January 1. It has rejected an initial proposal by member states.
A deal hashed out by their chief negotiator last week did “not take parliament's priorities sufficiently into account,” Parliament President Martin Schulz wrote to Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, who is leading negotiations under Ireland's EU presidency.
“Therefore it can be assumed that a large majority within the house will not support the outcome of last week's negotiations,” Schulz added.
Top EU officials are expected to keep working on a deal on the sidelines of this week's summit in Brussels, in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough this week.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy called Tuesday “on all involved to take their responsibility and successfully conclude the negotiations.”
Failure to adopt the 2014-20 budget threatens spending earmarked for 2014 to tackle youth unemployment and support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – two key priorities for leaders at this week's summit.
The 2014 budget offered “real tools, not just political announcements” to address some of the key challenges in Europe's economic crisis, Lewandowski said. This was “not feasible” without a deal on the seven-year budget, he added. dpa hm jln Author: Helen Maguire