Strasbourg, 18 October 2005
Parliament's ambitions for the EU will be translated into figures as the Plenary votes at first reading to restore much of the 2006 budget cut by the Council. Areas set to benefit include research, education and youth programmes, which were reduced by the Council in July, as well as external policy.
The general rapporteur on the budget, Gianni PITTELLA (PES, IT) believes the Budgets Committee had done its duty to the public. "We have upped the funding for policies related to the Lisbon strategy, with the emphasis on research and education. This reflects the public's wishes as we think that these headings, which were cut by the Council, should receive more generous funding". With this vote in the Budgets Committee, he went on to say, "we have sent a firm signal to the Council about the policies for which extra funding must be found at the conciliation in November if we are to wind up the 2006 budget procedure successfully and coherently".
Heading 1: agriculture and rural development
The Budgets Committee is proposing a ground-breaking budgetary amendment which aims to scrap the one billion euro subsidy for tobacco growers; a part of the money saved should be used for EU anti-smoking campaigns. Council has the last say on this as well as the rest of most of Heading 1 though, as they are regarded as "compulsory expenditure". Otherwise MEPs in the committee welcome the "modulation" transfer of 650m to the rural development sub-heading, which continues the process of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy.
Heading 2: structural actions
The Budgets Committee is keen to raise payments for structural measures (the financial basis of regional policy). This increase partly takes account of the forecasts of the Member States who have already announced that the funding levels proposed for 2006 will be inadequate. This proposed increase amounts to â'¬3.7bn roughly and covers all the main structural instruments (namely Objectives 1, 2 and 3, the Cohesion Fund and Leader).
Heading 3: internal policies
MEPs in the committee want to add no less than â'¬200 million in payment appropriations to a range of budget headings for the Lisbon strategy which the Council reduced at first reading. The main areas which would boost EU competitiveness include increases for programmes to support small and medium-sized companies, but above all for the 6th framework research programme. The payments for education programmes are also increased, by â'¬35 million for Socrates, â'¬20 million for Leonardo da Vinci and â'¬3 million for e-learning.
Another key feature of the vote is the funding allocated to the European Commission's information policy. MEPs in the committee voted for more resources for the debate on the future of Europe, public information via the media and the euro. They tied this funding to one condition: the Commission must first publish its White Paper on information and communication policy. Parliament also wants an explanation for the Commission's under-spending of its information budget in 2005.
Heading 4: EU external policy
A heading which causes problems year after year is "external action" (support for projects outside the EU's borders). Here the Budgets Committee wants to exceed the available funding ceiling, partly to boost its traditional priorities such as regional programmes and promoting human rights around the world.
To finance more recent priorities - such as the reconstruction of Iraq (â'¬200 million for 2006) and tsunami-hit regions (â'¬180 million) plus expenditure linked to the EU's international commitments - the committee proposes exploring all "options available" under the inter-institutional agreement linked to the financial perspective. Any agreement on extra expenditure must be reached at the negotiations with the Council ahead of the second reading of the 2006 budget.
As for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the committee proposes to deny Council its proposed increase for two special envoys; the committee feels that Parliament should be consulted for CFSP expenditure coming from the EU budget, on the basis of an agreement struck in 2002 with Council to exchange information in this area.
For Heading 5, the Budgets Committee is keen to re-establish the 46 posts requested by the Commission which had been cut by the Council in July but attached conditions to its support. As for the pre-accession strategy, MEPs in the committee suggest no changes in the funding for Turkey (â'¬470 million in commitments, â'¬155 in payments).
Giovanni Pittella (PSE, IT)
Report on the draft general budget of the European Union for the 2006 financial year - Section III - Commission
EU Budget 2006 EU budget 2006