‘Genuine progress’ made in EU long-term budget talks

12 Jun 13
Political agreement on the European Union’s long-term budget for 2014– 2020 is ‘within our grasp’, the European Commissioner for financial programming and budget claimed last night.

By | 12 June 2013 

Political agreement on the European Union’s long-term budget for 2014– 2020 is ‘within our grasp’, the European Commissioner for financial programming and budget claimed last night.

Janusz Lewandowski was speaking after the latest round of talks aimed at getting the commission, the European Council, which is made up of EU ministers, and the European Parliament to agree on the budget, which is known as the Multiannual Financial Framework. In March, the Parliament rejected a proposal put forward by the Council to cut the existing €994bn budget by 3.3% in real terms.

Lewandowski said the latest talks, which took place in the French city of Strasbourg, had made ‘genuine progress’. He added: ‘No, we are not there yet, we will need another round of talks, next Tuesday in Brussels, but I believe that a deal is now within our grasp. It is now our responsibility, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission, to decide whether to stretch our arm to grab it or not.

‘Last night, the gap between the Council's and the Parliament's positions on the future flexibility of the EU budget and on a revision clause halfway through the next financial period got much narrower.’

He stressed that there was still work to be done in some areas, but claimed that talks had tipped ‘the scales of the MFF negotiations’ towards a deal.

His positive assessment was echoed by Irish politicians representing the Council in the negotiations as a result of their presidency of the body. Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s Tánaiste or deputy prime minister, said he believed the three parties were ‘nearing a deal.’

‘I remain confident that we can reach an agreement if there is sufficient political will on all sides. Our common goal is to ensure that €960bn in EU funding can be mobilised to support economic growth and job creation across Europe,’ he added.

However, in a statement the European Parliament said its negotiating team were ‘disappointed by the lack of progress’ in the negotiations so far. They criticised the ‘small gestures’ made by the Council on issues such increasing the flexibility of the budget to allow money to be moved from one year to another.

The Council’s plans would also leave the newly-elected Parliament without any say regarding the budget until 2020, it claimed.

The statement added: ‘MEPs also take it as a bad signal that the Council could not agree on a budget to accommodate the accession of Croatia, even though the whole scenario is foreseen in the inter-institutional agreement that is currently in force. European Parliament negotiators would like this issue to be solved in accordance with the agreement.’

A final political trilogue will take place on June 18, and the Parliament said it was still hopeful agreement would be reached by June 25.

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