EU budget discussions collapse
The first round in two weeks of tough talks on the European Union budget collapsed after austerity- minded states refused to plug a 2012 budget shortfall in funds destined for Europe’s needy.
Talks had been scheduled to approve a budget for 2013 but instead snagged straight off on an 8.9-billion-euro hole in this year’s spending, according to figures provided by the European Commission.
Approval for the massive EU budget must be agreed between the 27 member states and the European Parliament, but MEP Alain Lamassoure, who heads the assembly’s budget committee, said: “The council (of ministers) were unable to negotiate so the negotiations were suspended. The collapse of the 2013 budget talks, which leaders will have a last-chance opportunity to resume on Tuesday, augurs badly for a November 22-23 summit called to settle the bloc’s even more hotly disputed 2014-2020 spending plans.
“If we succeed in these negotiations now, we’ll create a better atmosphere for convergence and agreement in the (summit) negotiations,” Cyprus’s deputy EU minister Andreas Mavroyannis, who chaired session, had said.
But even before considering spending for 2013, governments refused to contribute funds to make up this year’s shortfall, threatening the future of a wide range of social programmes including the Erasmus student exchange scheme.
It also included 670 million euros set aside to compensate Italian earthquake victims. Officials said EU governments had pledged to ensure Italy would receive the funds.
At the talks, eight nations - Austria, Britain, Denmark, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden - demanded that the EU’s executive use 15 billion euros of non-spent monies to plug the hole. But the Commission said those monies had already been spent.
Mavroyannis said conciliation efforts would continue until a Tuesday deadline. The budget commissioner Janusz Lewandoswki suggested cutting the 2012 bill by deducting 1.4 billion euros not payable this year, EU sources said.
Poland’s prime minister meanwhile urged net beneficiary EU members not to block talks on the 2014- 2020 budget at the upcoming summit.
“A veto of the budget is not in Poland’s interest. It creates the opportunity to find solutions for the future - it shouldn’t be used except as a last resort,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk said.
“There are some countries that would be very pleased to see one of the net beneficiary countries impose their veto. Poland won’t do it,” he added.
For 2013, the European Commission and European Parliament are seeking a 6.8-per cent increase - or nine billion euros - to 138 billion euros to bolster growth and jobs in the slowing economy.