The European Commission has submitted a proposal to amend the European Union’s budget for 2013, asking for an extra €11.2 billion from the member states to cover invoices for EU funding submitted last year and increased spending in the current budget.
Janusz Lewandowski, the European commissioner for financial programming and budget, will present the top-up request to MEPs on the budgets committee on 15 April.
The amendment comes on top of the agreed budget for 2013 of €132.8bn in payments.
“This cannot come as a surprise,” Lewandowski said in Brussels last Wednesday (27 March). “In recent years, voted EU budgets have been increasingly below the real needs; this is creating a snowballing effect of unpaid claims transferred onto the following year.”
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He said that the addition would be sufficient to cover unpaid invoices from last year as well as ongoing programmes, for example under the EU’s cohesion policy, where payments will be due this year. But Alain Lamassoure, the chairman of the Parliament’s budgets committee, warned that the total requested is expected to fall some €5bn short of actual needs from the 2013 budget.
The budget for 2013 was adopted at the end of November as a compromise between MEPs, the Commission and the member states after a quarrel about unfunded commitments – promises to pay. It included a provision for Lewandowski to submit a top-up request as soon as feasible.
The currently agreed budget for 2013 foresees payments of €132.8bn, some €5bn below what the Commission requested in its draft budget. The shortfall was increased by the rollover into this year of unpaid bills from 2012. The bulk of the additional €11.2bn request, some €9bn, is for cohesion programmes.
The endorsement of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers is required for the request to be approved. No member state holds veto power over the annual budget or modifications to it.
The European Commission has circulated to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers a breakdown by budget heading and programme of the decisions taken by the European Council in negotiations on the European Union’s budget for 2014-20.
The analysis, which comes almost two months after the government leaders completed their negotiations (7-8 February), gives figures for each year of the seven-year budget cycle to each budget heading and programme.
The breakdown is a prerequisite for negotiations on the EU’s annual budget for 2014, the first year of the multiannual cycle. A Commission spokesperson said it was on course to submit a proposal for the annual budget “before the summer”.
The European Parliament voted last month (15 March) to reject the budget for 2014-20 as it had been set by the European Council. Negotiations between Parliament and Council have begun and the Irish government has declared an objective of reaching agreement by May.
The Commission has circulated a proposal to reduce the level of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) direct payments in 2014, taking into account the provisional agreement on the budget for 2014-20 between national government leaders. The proposal introduces a linear cut of just under 5% in these direct payments. This is an overall reduction of €1.47 billion for the year 2014.
The proposal, which was circulated to member states at the end of last week (27 March), would exempt the first €5,000 of farmers’ direct payments from any reduction. The reductions will not apply for Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia because their participation in the system of CAP direct payments is being phased in gradually.
The concept of reining in payments was established in 2003, but has not been used until now. Calculation of the rate of financial discipline is provisional, pending final agreement on the EU’s budget for 2014-20.
The United Kingdom government reacted with dismay. “This is a totally unacceptable request from the Commission at a time when most EU member states are taking difficult decisions to reduce public spending,” said Greg Clark, financial secretary to the UK Treasury. “It is extraordinary that the Commission should demand an increase in the EU budget that is bigger than the rescue package that was agreed for Cyprus earlier this week.”