MEPs welcome new ideas but miss real revision on budget

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MEPs welcome new ideas but miss real revision on budgetMEPs were disappointed that the Commission’s EU budget review document had not sought the radical revision that the EU needs, they told Budgets Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski in a Policy Challenges Committee debate on Thursday. Parliament should be a real partner in talks on the EU’s next long-term budget, said Mr Lewandowski.

Committee MEPs asked the Commissioner what his real purpose was with respect to the budget review he had presented the previous week, since it was neither the long-awaited revision of the current long-term budget (also known as the “financial perspective” or multiannual budget framework), nor a proposal for the next one.

“We have agreed on an ambitious EU2020 strategy – but how does the Commission actually see that this strategy is going to be implemented in next two or three years – the years before 2014?,” asked Carl Haglund (ALDE, FI), noting that “30% of the time remaining until 2020 is in the current financial perspective.”

“Are we going to waste all years until after 2013?” added Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE).

Review document “balanced, boring, and not too clear”

“Our document should be read as an opening of discussions, without prejudicing too much”, replied the Commissioner. If the document had been too clear, he argued, the Council might have rejected it immediately. This was why he had instead produced “this rather balanced, rather boring, document”.

Involve Parliament from the outset

On future budget talks, Mr Lewandowski added: “the major goal and achievement would be to have Parliament inside the room for negotiations from the very beginning, instead of outside the room, preparing a resolution for when everything is too late”. He admitted that it could be “extremely difficult” to persuade Member States to let MEPs be a partner in intergovernmental rounds, but added that “this should be the goal”.

Own resources

MEPs nonetheless welcomed some of the ideas put forward in the Commission document, such as suggestions about new sources of income, “own resources,” for the EU.

“The S&D group wants to discuss new own resources and now the Council seems to be ready to discuss it too,” said Eider Gardiazábal Rubial (ES), adding that her group would have preferred a clearer reference to a financial transaction tax.

Salvador Garriga Polledo (EPP, ES) added that the document would help him in his task as the committee’s rapporteur, preparing Parliament’s view on the next financial perspective.

Duration of the future budget

Reimer Böge (EPP, DE), asked for a thorough analysis of the various duration options for the next long-term budget framework: the traditional 7 years, 5 years, as earlier proposed by Parliament, or Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s proposal of 10 years, with a revision after five.

Miguel Portas (GUE/NGL, PT) asked how the Commissioner planned to ensure that the Member States would actually agree on a mid-term revision and not change their minds, as they had done during the current period.

“If we choose the 5+5 model, I agree, we need a guarantee for real revision. We need an obligatory reserve of 5%, which is a lot, as we now have 0.03%. But the second pillar is political will. Without this, there will be no revision,” Mr Lewandowski admitted.

The Commission presented the budget review on Tuesday 19 October. In spring 2011, it is to present some preliminary ideas about next long-term budget framework. The Policy Challenges Committee report is scheduled for a vote at the June 2011 plenary session, just before the Commission presents its final proposal.

The current long-term budget covers 2007-2013. Under the Lisbon treaty, the next long-term budget must cover at least 5 years, but could also cover more.

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