Majority of MEPs demand improvement of EU budget

A sizeable majority of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) demanded significant changes to the European Union’s (EU) 2021-2027 budget, which was agreed on by EU leaders at a summit earlier this week, saying they were prepared to block it unless it is improved.

The MEPs adopted by 465 in favour, 150 against, and 67 abstentions a resolution warning that the long-term budget could be blocked unless improved, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

MEPs are expected to vote on the budget later this year.

At the extraordinary sitting of the EP plenary, many MEPs expressed their disappointment that many of the priorities in the multi-year budget had their funds cut substantially while some of the funding was transferred to the pandemic recovery plan.

The heads of state and government of the EU members reached an agreement earlier this week following marathon talks in Brussels on the next seven-year EU budget worth over 1 trillion euros in conjunction with a 750 billion-euro economic recovery package that aims to help EU countries bounce back from the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But MEPs were not pleased with the cuts in certain areas which they deemed of utmost importance, including in education.

During the debate with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, MEPs expressed their dissatisfaction.

“We are not ready to swallow the multiannual financial framework pill,” said Manfred Weber, from the European People’s Party. Social Democrats leader Iratxe Garcia said she would not accept the cuts, especially “at a time when we need to strengthen our strategic autonomy and reduce disparities between member states.”

Many MEPs highlighted that the question of reimbursing the debt was not resolved, insisting that the burden must not fall on citizens. They also called for a robust system of new own resources including a digital tax or levies on carbon for the repayment and with a guaranteed and binding calendar.

Others were skeptical about new own resources’ ability to generate enough to repay all the debt.

The resolution called for immediate constructive negotiations with the European Council to improve the proposal and deplored the fact that “all too often, exclusive adherence to national interests and positions jeopardizes the achievement of common solutions that are in the general interest.”

It said that the cuts went against the EU’s objectives, including the proposed cuts to health and research programs which MEPs said was “dangerous in the context of a global pandemic.”

“The proposed cuts to education, the digital transformation and innovation jeopardize the future of the next generation of Europeans [and] that the proposed cuts to programs supporting the transition of carbon-dependent regions run counter to the EU’s Green Deal agenda,” the resolution said.

The MEPs accused EU leaders of failing to tackle the issue of the recovery instrument repayment plan, adding that the creation of new own resources was the only repayment method acceptable for the European Parliament.

Although she tried convincing MEPs to back the deal, von der Leyen also admitted the budget cuts “is a difficult pill to swallow.”