The European Union has avoided a collapse of its budget by agreeing on its expenses for next year after the European Parliament voted Wednesday in favor of a compromise with the EU’s 28 member states, although snowballing debts from past years could still jeopardize development funding throughout 2015.
By a 443-250 vote with 7 abstentions, members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France gave the final green light to a draft budget with 145.32 billion euros ($179.2 billion) in commitments and 141.21 billion euros in payments. EU lawmakers also secured an additional 4.25 billion euros for the bloc to pay its bills to partner NGOs, small firms and other contractors. Parliament has tasked the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — to come up with a plan to bring the backlog of bills — which is spiraling to reach a record 25 billion to 30 billion euros by the end of the year — back under control.
Wednesday’s agreement follows an earlier compromise between parliament, the 28 member states — known collectively as the European Council — and the commission. The council had first tried to impose cuts on the draft budget proposed by the commission, while the parliament pushed for more expenses in 2015 and an end to the backlog in previous payments. In the end, the MEPs managed to put off further cuts by the member states.
Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva — responsible for the EU budget — praised the agreement, while center-right Croatian MEP Ivo Davor Stier told Devex after the vote he was satisfied with additional funding of 32 million euros for foreign policy actions — including 10 million euros for humanitarian interventions — on top of the initial draft budget, but urged caution.
“Unfortunately, we have an all-time peak of humanitarian crises and we should not cut humanitarian aid budget,” Stier said. “I also hope that the newly negotiated budget will allow the EU to reduce the amount of unpaid bills, especially in the field of humanitarian aid and development cooperation.”
Liadh ni Raida, a far-left Irish MEP, flatly condemned the deal, noting during the debate in Strasbourg that it’s “appalling” that there will be less money for humanitarian aid in 2015 than last year.
The budget agreement, though, has prevented a total blockage where EU funding for aid and development in 2015 would only be dispensed according to a piecemeal regime of monthly installments on one-twelfth of the 2014 budget. NGOs have welcomed the deal, but worry that the commission’s department for development cooperation — EuropeAid — may still find itself dry of funds by the middle of 2015.
“It’s critical that a structural solution is found as soon as possible, without jeopardizing progress towards sustainable development that has been achieved in recent years,” said Alexandra Makaroff, head of Plan International’s EU Office in Brussels, Belgium.
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