12 Feb 13
MEPs from four political parties have threatened to veto the overall budget package for 2014-20 agreed by the EU Council on 8 February, arguing that it does not provide sufficient support for growth and investment in Europe.
In a cross-party statement published immediately after the deal was announced, MEPs representing the Greens/EFA, EPP, S&D and ALDE parties of the parliament said: “The European Parliament cannot accept today’s deal in the European Council as it is.” According to the parliament leaders, “The core priority behind Parliament’s choices is the ambition to promote growth and investment in the EU… this agreement will not strengthen the competitiveness of the European economy but weaken it.”
On 8 February, European heads of state agreed a compromise on the budget from 2014 to 2020, which must now be approved by the Parliament to enter into force from the beginning of 2014.
In the early hours of Friday morning, during the summit of EU leaders, European Parliament’s president Martin Schulz said the compromise would “not secure the approval” of the parliament. “We cannot agree to cut back on research, innovation and education – these are going to be cut drastically, and this simply doesn’t match the Europe 2020 goals,” he said.
The deal approved by the Council indicates the budget for the Horizon 2020 research programme will be around €69bn, if all unspecified areas of competitiveness spending receive equal reductions. Previously, the Commission said Horizon 2020 should receive €80bn, whilst the parliament has argued the research and innovation programme needs €100bn to provide a much-needed boost to growth and innovation.
Schulz also expressed concerns that the gap between the two levels of spending in the budget—commitments, the upper ceiling for spending, and payments, the amount predicted to be spent—was too large. He said this could only contribute to an ever-increasing structural deficit in the EU budget and risk annual payment crises for programmes such as Horizon 2020 unless budget shortfalls are met by supplementary budgets.
Schulz said he had been informed of plans by leaders of the four main parties to ensure MEPs vote via a secret ballot, which would make it more likely that the parliament would reject the budget proposal, as members would be less likely to be swayed by national influences ahead of upcoming elections. Signatures from 151 MEPs would be needed for the vote to be conducted anonymously, said Schulz.
However, Martin Callanan, the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists party — a centre-right group dominated by the British Conservative Party — said that a secret vote would constitute a “highly cynical and unaccountable act” on one of the parliament’s most important votes.
Callanan said that undertaking the procedure would undermine the credibility of the European Parliament, arguing that MEPs must remain accountable to their voters and explain why they do not support their national governments.
“If MEPs want to reject an agreement made by their own prime ministers then they should have the courage of their convictions and not try to cower behind a procedural technicality,” said Callanan.
by Laura Greenhalgh