The topline numbers in the proposed European Union budget may be as good as final, amid ongoing negotiations between the EU Council and the European Parliament. For European aid organizations, this may be better than risking further cuts to development spending in the event of a veto in June.
The European Parliament has rejected the current deal, which sets the budget at €908 billion ($1.17 trillion). A total of 506 members last week voted for a resolution that calls for a midterm review of the budget and more flexibility in moving funds across budget lines.
But the European Parliament stopped short of commenting on the numbers.
“It doesn’t say that the numbers [the EU Council has] agreed [on] were really wrong,” said Lars Bosselmann, advocacy manager at CBM and chair of the CONCORD working group on the EU budget, adding that the resolution “doesn’t propose any alternative numbers.”
The midterm review, however, could provide parties with the option to raise the budget in the coming years.
The question now is whether the European Parliament will give its consent, or exercise its vetoing power in June. The likelihood of the latter happening, though, is low, suggested Bosselmann, who said such a move would reopen negotiations and prolong the process.
“They are aiming at starting to implement the whole budget for next year … but reopening the negotiations might delay this,” he told Devex. “They will — I guess — vote in favor of it in June. They won’t be very happy with it … but it’s a matter of being pragmatic and realistic.”
While far from certain, a veto could prompt proposals for cuts to the development cooperation budget.
“The agreement at the February summit was of course not a very good agreement for development, but there are no positive signs that a reopened negotiation would produce any better outcome,” said Bosselmann. “On the contrary, actually, one could see quite [some] further cuts if they reopen.”
The Lisbon Treaty does not provide a detailed timetable for the European Parliament to decide on the budget. It only says the budget should be operational starting Jan. 1, 2014.
An EU spokesperson, though, previously told Devex that “it’d be good if the parliament works fast on this.” Almost all EU projects “terminate” by Dec. 31.
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