The EU Commission should not accept member states’ demands to reduce the EU budget but rather respond to citizens’ needs, said MEP Siegfried Mureșan, as discussions on the EU budget for 2024 and revising the Union’s long-term budget approach.
The Commission’s proposal, expected on 7 June, will lay down the EU’s expenditure and revenue for next year, including funding EU policies and programmes. It is subject to amendments from the member states in the Council and must be agreed on with Parliament over the coming months.
“The European Commission should not respond to political calls from the Council for budget reductions where this is not justified,” said Mureșan, recently nominated as the Parliament’s rapporteur for the 2024 budget.
The Parliament is ready to correct the draft budget “if it falls short of the needs on the ground,” Mureșan said.
According to the rapporteur, the budget should primarily focus on supporting Ukraine and farmers affected by the war while ensuring food security across the bloc and neighbouring countries.
“The first priority is to adopt the budget in a timely manner and to give predictability to all beneficiaries of EU funds,” Mureșan told EURACTIV, adding that Parliament will adopt its position at the beginning of autumn and aim for the final vote before the end of the year.
One of Parliament’s main goals will be to resist the Council’s efforts to reduce the budget.
The EU budget has come under pressure from different sides. First, high inflation also means that EU programmes and projects become more expensive or have to be scaled down. Second, the rise of interest rates has led to higher borrowing costs for the EU, which has to pay interest on debt it issues to finance the pandemic recovery fund.
Finally, the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine has made the EU use up most of the reserves it had in its long-term budget.
“Unfortunately, in the past, we have seen governments preoccupied only with paying as little as possible into the budget of the European Union, and we now all have to live with the negative consequences of this irresponsible behaviour,” Mureșan said.
“[It] led us into a situation where the budget does not have enough resources, enough flexibility, enough margins and manoeuvre to act in situations of crisis,” he added.
According to the rapporteur, this logic put a strain on the overall long-term budget of the EU, the so-called multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for which the Commission will propose a revision of at the end of June.
“The key demand of the Parliament will be flexibility,” the lawmaker said, commenting on the upcoming revision, which is expected to look at ways to better equip the long-term budget for unforeseen crises.
Concerning the EU’s rising borrowing costs, Mureșan said the Parliament “will never accept” paying these costs from the current long-term budget, as it would necessarily entail cuts to the funding for EU programmes.
“We cannot say yes to paying from the budget of the Union an amount which we do not even know how much it will be,” he said.
The increasing pressure on the EU budget worries many EU lawmakers, who proposed new revenue streams earlier this month and urged the Commission to present its proposal for a new batch of new resources as soon as possible. The proposal, expected in the year’s second half, is likely to focus on a new framework for corporate taxation.
According to Mureșan, the Commission should, however, put all possible new revenue streams on the table to increase the likelihood of an agreement among member states, which need to approve new own resources for the EU unanimously.
“If the European Commission starts excluding any source right now, I believe we reduce the chances of reaching an agreement on these resources. The richer the basket is, the more likely each member state finds a reasonable compromise,” he explained.
[Edited by János Allenbach-Ammann/Alice Taylor]
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