Not in our name
In times of European legitimacy crisis and disengagement of European citizens from the European integration process, European leaders agreed last week on an EU multiannual budget that is impressively retrograde. Based on excessive horse-trading, without a view of the future, EU leaders were carrying on as if Europe was theirs alone to govern. But the times of absolute monarchy are over. As young Members of the European Parliament, we are raising the alarm. To those who deny investments in our future, in innovation and sustainable growth, while perpetuating the old gravy train, we say: Not in our name.
The Brussels Justus Lipsius building, in which the Heads of State and Government on Friday morning announced their budget compromise, has little resemblance to Versailles. Nonetheless, the summit participants' attitude was: L'état c'est moi, or, more precisely, L'Europe, c'est nous. A final draft was announced, which is half baked and sets the wrong parameters.
Direct payments to the agricultural sector are still a formidable chunk of EU spending and were not cut in comparison to the November negotiation proposals. 20 percent of European farmers receive 80 percent of European agricultural spending. To alter this, the Commission had proposed a reasonable capping of direct aid and a possibility to fully reallocate these funds for environmental and greening purposes or measures to combat climate change. Member States changed that into a voluntary option. However, "could", "may" and "possible" solutions have not yet really won over the comfort of direct payments in the every day reality of EU spending implementation.
In return, Member States decided to cut even further, eventually by half, the investment in our cross-European infrastructure: Energy grids, transport connections and Internet communications. The so called "Connecting Europe Facility" stands for much needed investment with a real European added value. But as no Member State could sell this at home as a purely national win, none of them defended it really. Research, innovation and education spending, among others for programmes such as Erasmus, were further cut compared to the Commission's proposal, while rebates were accorded to even more Member States as well as special conditions to some for the structural and cohesion funds.
Furthermore, the Member States ́ compromise leaves open the all-important question of how this deal is to be financed. Already the EU budgets in 2011 and 2012 were underfunded. In October 2012, for example, the EU was around nine billion Euros short, affecting the popular Erasmus flagship programme. The current compromise already shows a gap of 50 billion euros between payments and commitment obligations. The EU cannot run up a debt, it is the Member States who must allocate sufficient funds for the EU budget.
Another central issue is flexibility. So far, it is hardly possible to adequately respond to sudden challenges. Also the period of seven years is too inflexible: not even the now defunct Soviet Union had seven-year plans. In order to overcome some of the structural issues, we need the ability to reallocate funds that were not retrieved. Nor should they be referred back to the Member States, but remain available for EU priority projects instead.
This is not good enough for our future. Instead of highways ending in the middle of nowhere, we want longer broadband lines and more money for research, innovation, education and mobility. We no longer want to see subsidies thrown after large landowner corporations, but rather promote the transition to a sustainable economy. We would like funds to be available for those small and medium sized enterprises that are the engine of our economy, who, through their own entrepreneurial venture, manage to create opportunities for us all. We do not want Europe to go into the national habit of deficit spending. We want Europe to become more flexible.
We have to think big when it comes to a better allocation of resources, and the outcome unfortunately points to a missed opportunity in favor of national prerogatives and sensitivities. The Council's draft budget needs urgent improvement. We will work in the European Parliament to help identify priorities of the 21st century. That may not be what the EU leaders wish to hear, but the Justus Lipsius building is no Versailles. And we are ready to defend our future.
Franziska Brantner (Greens/DE)
Barbara Matera (EPP/IT)
Ismail Ertug (S&D/DE)
Amelia Andersdotter (Greens/SE)
Frank Engel (EPP/LU)
Nadja Hirsch (ALDE/DE)
Rui Tavares (Greens/EFA/PT)
Saïd El Khadraoui (S&D/BE)
Tanja Fajon (S&D/SI)
Holger Krahmer (ALDE/DE)
Marietje Schaake (ALDE/NL)
Lara Comi (EPP/IT)
Justina Vitkauskaite (ALDE/LT)