08/12/2011 Budget 2012: still dividing the European Parliament

The European Union budget for 2012 was passed this morning during a mini-plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels. It was of a total of 129.1 billion euro, a 1.86% increase for spending and 147.2 billion euro for commitments, when compared to the 2011 budget. This has had various reactions from the euro-deputies. They had put the bar higher on the 26th of October, with a draft budget that had 133.1 billion euro for spending.

Budgetary austerity welcomed by EPP and ALDE deputies

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) which greeted the European budget, said that it must ‘reflect the austerity that is affecting all national budgets and also participate in so far as it can in investments necessary for future growth, especially for research and development, as well as education and training,’ according to a press release.

So austerity is now on the programme in the new budget and it will also affect the European Union’s institutions. Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, Germany), shadow reporteur in the ALDE group for the budget of other institutions, takes the example of the Parliament, that has, ‘despite the new tasks it has under the Lisbon treaty, and thanks to internal restructuring and redeployment (...) we can still work in good conditions while still saving 74 million euro on travel costs, translation and interpreting, energy consumption and members’ allowances.’ He then concluded that ‘if all of Europe is tightening its belt, than the European institutions must do the same’.

ALDE says that ‘its priorities, favouring research, competitivity, innovation and life-long learning are sufficiently provided for’, according to euro deputy Carl Haglund (ALDE, Finland).

The European Peoples Party (EPP) was also happy with the adoption of the 2012 budget, as is clear in Giovanni La Via’s (EPP, Italy) statement, who is also spokesperson for the European Commission budget 2012. According to him, ‘The EU budget for 2012 (...) is sufficient, especially given the serious economic crisis and the difficulties present in many national budgets’.

He also greets the EPP group’s efforts, which ensured that during the negotiations the financing of main policies like the common agricultural policy or the cohesion policy were provided for. They will have ‘adequate resources in order to respond to future demands’ he stated.

Instrument for flexibility:
It authorises, in certain budgetary circumstances, the financing of clearly identified spending that could not be provided within the available provisions in one or various sectors.

According to Giovanni La Via, this budget, ‘while fully taking the crisis into account (...) is trying to stimulate investment and the economy to attain the goal of intelligent growth that is inclusive and durable for the European Union.’

So, he is ‘very satisfied with the decision to use the instrument of flexibility, which, has a fund of 200 M €, which will allow, in a way, to stimulate the competitivity of the economy by financing priority policies for Europe 2020(...) and also to ensure that there are adequate funds to overcome the difficult challenges in the European policy of proximity.’

The socialist deputies are deeply suspicious of the budget that was adopted this morning

For the Socialist euro deputies, quite the opposite: the budget that was adopted this morning does not reflect the position of the Parliament, but that of the Member states.

Estelle Grelier (S&D, France) member of the budget commission, has stated that ‘the 2012 budget is essentially the Council’s budget, and the European Parliament has just added some bits an pieces, thanks to some gains made...(...) On paper, we were able to safeguard our priorities, and our key programmes are maintained, ‘before adding that ‘the hypocrisy of the Council is in its reticence in unblocking ‘fresh money’ for spending, which raises the issues of the permanence of the relevant programmes on the ground.’

Estelle Grelier is insisting on the need for an adequate European budget, ‘which would allow for stimulus policies’; according to her ‘it will need to create jobs and growth in Europe’.

For Catherine Trautmann (S&D, France), the solution lies in ‘giving the European Union the proper resources, like a tax on financial transactions’. Thanks to that ‘the ratio of the national contributions in the community takings would be reduced; We (the European Parliament) would no longer be subject to blackmail from the Council on budgetary decisions’ stated the president of the delegation of French Socialists in the European Parliament.

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