In Brussels, EU budget showdown begins

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy are said to be on a “collision course” over the EU’s multiannual financial framework. Photo by: European Commission

Top EU leaders are meeting today, Nov. 22, in Brussels to start intense negotiations over the bloc’s next seven-year financial framework, including its budget for external assistance.

Ahead of the session, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso reminded parliamentarians that cuts to the external assistance budget are “a question of life and death” for the world’s poorest people and that Europe’s “particular responsibility to Africa” needs to be recognized.

In what “seems” to be a plea to protect development aid spending, Barroso urged participants to a European Parliament plenary session to remember the European Union’s commitment to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“A little difference in the EU budget makes a massive difference for the people depending on EU programmes,” Barroso said. “For every billion cut in the Horizon 2020 programme, 4,000 small and medium sized enterprises lose funding.”

Barroso’s plea puts him on a “collision course” with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, whose recent budget proposal sets a €65.65 billion ($84 billion) cap on the budget for Global Europe, which covers all EU external assistance. This is significantly lower than the European Commission’s request of €70 billion, of which €51 billion is for development assistance.

Negotiations in the next few days will follow a “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” principle. Discussions seek to define limits to the EU’s overall expenditure for 2014-2020, which programs will be funded and how “expenditure should be financed.”

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    Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a former staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.