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The Polish presidency and future EU budgets

Submitted by on 04 May 2011 – 10:19

Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget

At the end of June we will present our proposal for the post 2013 financial period. Given the current climate of austerity it seems pretty obvious that the negotiations will be long and tough. We had a foretaste of this when I presented the draft budget for 2012: we proposed a 4.9% increase and immediately got strong reactions from a number of member states saying that at a time when they have make cuts at home the EU budget should not increase.

It sounds fair at first sight but we all know that “first sight” is rarely totally reliable.

In this case, the draft budget 2012 or the next financial framework, is no exception: it does not quite make sense, and this is for a number of reasons.

Over 80% of the EU budget consists of payments to Member States, mainly for projects run in their regions, and those projects should not be held hostage to the current crisis. For one thing they have more value than if run without EU funds. Without EU funding many regional authorities will not even consider launching initiatives aimed at boosting economic growth and jobs, at protecting the environment or promoting science and research.

Many national authorities are cutting funding to their own regions. Do you really want to penalise regions a second time by reducing EU funds?

However we are all aware of the predicament in which member states are and the Commission is more than committed to helping them out; we have tabled a number of proposals to this purpose: last year our proposal for the review of the financial regulation suggested many changes that could improve the added value of EU funds by simplifying access to those funds (lighter administrative requirements for grants up to 50 000 euros, no need to open a new bank account for EU funds or to provide the same administrative documents and information every time one applies for EU funds, etc), increasing the accountability of member states in the way they manage EU projects, promoting public-private partnerships (PPPs’)…

Last October we presented the budget review, our reflexion on how to improve the way the EU budget works altogether, in which we called for better spending rather more spending. We called for Cohesion Policy to support the EU common priorities rather than limiting itself to funding poorer regions, to become a tool for reaching EU2020 objectives while focusing less on input (administrative forms, bills received) and more on concrete results.

We are still awaiting a reaction of the Council and the Parliament to our proposals but we are convinced that such changes would be good for Europe’s regions and thus Europe’s citizens.

The Polish Presidency will play a crucial role in helping shape tomorrow’s EU budgets since it will be down to it to hammer out a joint position on behalf of all Member States on the next financial framework following our proposal at the end of June. I am convinced that Europe’s regions can also play an important role by engaging with their respective national authorities, by explaining to them that far from being a “budget for Brussels”, the EU budget is genuinely a budget for 500 million Europeans, their regions and their SMEs, and that by freezing it you hurt regional and local actors, public and private, far more than EU institutions (whose cost of functioning amounts to a mere 6% of the whole budget).

Over the last ten years, national budgets of the EU Member States have grown by 62% while over the same period the EU budget increased by 37%. If we are serious about working together for the well being and the future of our citizens, then the EU budget must reflect this aim; these days it represents only 1% of the EU GDP. Going under that threshold would not make sense.