med_6e14b8e674cfdbc65a1785b86f5688a8The European Parliament will vote tomorrow (13 March) a resolution on the EU budget for 2014-2020, agreed by heads of state and government at their 7-8 February summit. But as the vote approaches, the common position spelled out by five political groups last week appears undermined by national views opposing the proposed “rejection.”

The five leading political groups in the European Parliament, representing the vast majority of MEPs, adopted on 7 March a strong-worded joint ‘Motion for Resolution’, which rejects the proposal for a long-term budget, as agreed by EU leaders (see background), and lists various “essential conditions” for the eventual support of MEPs.

The resolution, which aimed to present a unified front against EU leaders, was introduced by the leaders of the centre-right European Peoples’ Party Joseph Daul, of the Socialists and Democrats group Hannes Swoboda, of the Liberal ALDE group Guy Verhofstadt, of the co-presidents of the Green/EFA group Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, as well as the leader of the leftist GUE/NGL group Gabriele Zimmer.

On Monday (11 March), however, it became clear that the EPP group’s internal divisions grew on the wording “rejects this agreement in its current form”. As EurActiv France reported from Strasbourg, a group of the German MEPs led by Herbert Reul, leader of the German EPP-affiliated MEPs, refused to enter in conflict with Angela Merkel over the budget deal.

Similarly, EurActiv has learned that the UK’s Labour party has departed from the agreed position of the S&D group and aligned itself with the ECR group, where David Cameron’s conservatives sit.

Polish MEPs have instead found a cross-party agreement on the deal struck by EU leaders, as it is perceived ‘good for their country’.

Indeed, after the summit many leaders returned home, claiming they had obtained the most out of the negotiations.

Now, the ‘Motion for a Resolution’ slams the lack of transparency in the way the agreement was reached at the level of heads of state and government. Apparently, Council President Herman Van Rompuy has presented national leaders with figures on their national allocations under cohesion or agricultural policies which are not publicly available.

To reject or not to reject?

Most likely, the word “reject” would be deleted as amendments to the resolution will be voted tomorrow.

However, even without this straightforward term, the resolution highlights that the budget proposed by EU leaders doesn’t reflect the priorities and concerns expressed by the European Parliament, and that the decisions of the EU summit would be voted by parliament only after “the conclusion of substantial negotiations with the Council”.

The Parliament wants to introduce a legally binding midterm review and more flexibility, which would allow all committed amounts to be spent to avoid imbalances.

A European Parliament source who asked not to be named said that the 7-8 February European Council initially had spelled out flexibility rules in its conclusions, but those were then deleted in order to use them as a bargaining chip with MEPs during the negotiations.

“So Parliament will ask it, with the presumption that they will get it 100%,” the source said.

Asked by EurActiv to comment, MEP Ivailo Kalfin (S&D, Bulgaria), who is one of the two Parliament rapporteurs on the 2014-2020 budget, insisted that what has been proposed by EU leaders cannot pass through parliament in its current form.

“We expect the Council to respond as quickly as possible to the Parliament’s proposal to open negotiations, with the view of agreeing a text on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) that would be acceptable,” he said.

After the vote, the ball will be in the camp of the Irish Presidency, which would propose a roadmap for negotiations. Negotiations could start in April and be concluded by summer.

If everything goes well, in autumn, some 65 regulations, which represent the legal base of the EU budget, would need to be passed in co-decision with the Commission and the Council.

Before the end of April, the Commission is already expected to present a draft budget for 2014. Most probably the Commission would introduce a proposal based on the MFF figures agreed, with some conditionality.

EurActiv. com




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