Callanan: 7-year budget agreement shows you can reduce and reprioritise EU spending

Nov 19, 2013


Well, here we are nine months later. An awful lot of hot air expended. A lot of threats have been made that never materialised.

And at its core we still have the MFF deal that our national Governments negotiated in February.

 My group has always said that the next seven year budget should achieve two key principles: firstly, to reduce it, and secondly, to reprioritise it away from headings that do not add economic value in a 21st century global economy.

 This MFF is a small step in the right direction.

 It did not go as far as we would have hoped. However, it shows that the costs of the EU can be reduced yet the value to taxpayers can be increased.

 Today’s vote marks the culmination of a long process that began several years ago when this parliament began its drafting of the SURE committee report.

 That committee then proposed a five percent budget increase. It wanted new Own Resources and taxes on anything from flying to sales to CO2.

And it called for the abolition of fully justified national rebates.

Thankfully almost the opposite has happened. Only in the area of Own Resources has the parliament achieved a minor concession which will see a gaggle of so-called independent wise men from the three institutions dreaming up a whole host of new ways to spend more taxpayers’ money on pet EU projects.

However, I am certainly not going to lose much sleep over this Group. Because the Treaty is clear that Own Resources remain within the Council’s power under unanimity and I think we all know it is just not going to happen. 

Because new own resources would fundamentally change the relationship between the EU and national governments. Instead of being their servants, it would become their master, forcing them to raise revenue to spend on whatever new scheme takes this Chamber’s fancy.

 Those who call for new Own Resources are the same people who consistently call for ‘More Europe’ as the answer to all our ills. As if throwing money at the problem will solve it. Instead, just as we need a better Europe, so we need better and more effective spending.

 That is why we generally welcome the outcome of the negotiations on the various spending regulations. Many of these programmes will help to promote cross-border research, to plug the holes in the Single Market’s infrastructure, and support the newer Members of the Union.

 However, these programmes are by their very nature multiannual, and they rely on certainty. The posturing we’ve seen from this parliament since February – but especially since the summer – will make it difficult for many to properly be up and running by January 1st.

I do agree with this parliament on one important area however. The European Commission’s budgetary management has been appalling. We cannot and must not end up in a situation whereby we are regularly returning to national governments just like Oliver Twist asking for more.

 And when overspends do occur, savings must be made from elsewhere to compensate. It is time we learnt to live within our means.

A satisfactory outcome in these negotiations does not dampen our demands for root and branch budgetary reform. 

 Overall, Mr President, this agreement represents a fair compromise between north, south, east, and west; between net contributors and net recipients. Nine months on and we are voting on an agreement that is fundamentally the same as it was in February.

This parliament has postured and strutted during this unedifying process but in reality we can be clear that the Council’s common sense has prevailed.

 For us it serves as an illustration that it is possible to make the EU do less and do it better.