Pro-European EP groups reverse the cuts made by Member States to the EU budget for 2016

The resolution on the 2016 EU draft budget restoring all the cuts proposed by the Council (Member States’ governments) was adopted by 434 votes in favour, 185 against and 80 abstentions.

The three main pro-EU groups were able to push it through. Indeed, the Christian-Democrat group EPP, the Socialist group S&D and the Liberal group ALDE voted in favour of the motion. On the contrary, the Conservative group ECR, the far-right group of Marine Le Pen and the Eurosceptic group of Nigel Farage all opposed the text. Notably (but not unusually), the British delegation of the Socialist group (Labour Party) voted against the line of the group and therefore against a bigger EU budget.

Similarly, in the Conservative group, the Polish delegation (who recently came to power in Warsaw) did not vote in line with the rest of the group, but in favour of the additional funds proposed by the resolution. The radical left group GUE-NGL and the Greens abstained.

Click here to see how each EU parliamentarian voted.

The text highlights as priorities for the 2016 EU budget the effective tackling of the migration and refugee crisis, boosting competitiveness and the development of enterprises and entrepreneurship across the Union.

As regards the migration and refugee crisis, the motion asks the Commission to come up with a proposal on how the budget can push Member States towards more solidarity. In this context, the EU parliamentarians decided to immediately propose amendments increasing the draft budget by 1.161 million euro in order to provide a direct response to the migration crises.

In their position, the MEPs pointed out that of all sections the one dedicated to the global role of the EU is receiving the biggest cuts by the Council. The EU parliamentarians in favour of the resolution think that this approach is in contradiction with the migration agenda. Therefore, the approved budget reverses all the cuts proposed by the Council in this area.

The resolution states also that in order to act against the ongoing crisis affecting European farmers, the 500 million euro for the support emergency measures announced by the Commission should already be included in the 2016 budget.

The key role played by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises toward boosting competitiveness, growth and jobs is also underlined by the EU Parliament’s position on the budget. Therefore, it strengthened the COSME programme dedicated to SMEs by adding extra funding and also proposes new commitments in 2016 for the continuation of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI).

Finally the draft budget sets the overall level for 2016 at EUR 157.427,3 million for commitments and EUR 146.459,3 million in appropriations respectively.

Amendment against austerity measures defeated by only 23 votes

The radical left group GUE-NGL proposed an amendment (no.30) pointing out the negative consequences of austerity policies and claiming that the Union’s budget should be used to help efforts to increase real wages and combat social dumping in the Member States. A centre-right coalition including the Christian-Democrats, the Conservatives and the Liberals was able to block the provision and succeeded in rejecting it by only 23 votes. Notably, in the ECR group, the Polish delegation voted in favour of the amendment.

Composition of Commission’s working groups to be changed

An amendment (no. 13) drafted by the Greens deploring that Commission expert groups are excessively dominated by corporate interests was narrowly adopted. The amendment was adopted by 368 votes in favour to 318 against. The majority included the centre-left groups S&D, GUE/NGL and Green/EFA plus the Eurosceptics and the nationalist group of Ms Le Pen. On the other hand, the Conservatives (EPP,ECR) and the liberals (ALDE) are of the opinion that expert groups that are involved in regulating the economy should continue to be composed mainly of economic actors (business experts). Notably, these groups remain in minority after the EU elections, when the left and the eurosceptics make up an ad-hoc coalition.

Institutions should use only airlines that recognise trade unions – denied

An amendment (no. 52) calling on the EU Institutions to ensure that third contract parties conform to labour law provisions and that Institutions should use airlines respecting workers’ rights was rejected by a small margin thanks to a centre-right majority including the EPP, the ECR and ALDE groups and the UKIP MEPs. The paragraph was refused by 326 votes in favour to 363 against and 13 abstentions.

The EP to make further savings in areas such as energy consumption – denied

The grand coalition of the Christian-Democrats and the Socialists was able to oppose an amendment (no. 24) urging the EU Parliament to present a plan as to how to make further savings or generate revenue in areas such as car parks and energy savings. The provision was rejected by 324 votes in favour to 359 against.

Request of the reduction of MEPs’ salaries – denied

The request (am. 9) for reducing MEPs’ salaries, allowances and travel expenses was rejected by the large majority of the Members of the Parliament. Only the EU groups at the extreme of the political spectrum voted in favour of it.

Next steps

The three weeks of conciliation talks between Parliament and Council have started. The institutions will try to agree on a compromise by the plenary session in November.

Statements of the Political Groups

European People’s Party (EPP), the political family of President Juncker and Chancellor Merkel, supported the EU Parliament’s €157.4 billion proposal “to restore all the money cut by the European Council from the European Commission’s draft budget and to go beyond it[1].” The group believes the EU needs a strong budget to respond in an effective way to the Union unemployment issue and to the migration and refugee crisis.

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) of EP President Schulz and French President Hollande were also among the supporters of the adopted draft budget. MEP Gardiazabal, S&D spokesperson for the budget committee, said: “Ensuring that we have the resources necessary to deal with the ongoing refugee crisis in an efficient and humane way is a priority for the S&D Group in the 2016 budget[2].” The group is satisfied by what was agreed because it is a strong budget that makes the necessary resources available to tackle the issues the Union is facing.

The European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR): David Cameron’s EU political group is of the opinion that the EU needs a reprioritised budget, not a bigger one. Therefore, the ECR group voted against the increase proposed in the position of the EU Parliament and drafted an alternative motion which listed a number of ideas for a better focused budget for the EU[3].

The Liberal group ALDE of Mr Verhofstadt was also among the groups who supported the increase to address the growing expenditure on asylum and immigration, but also “to finance the Democrats and Liberal priorities of the COSME program for SMEs, the research program Horizon 2020 and mechanisms for the interconnection of Europe.[4]

GUE/NGL: The radical left group close to the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras welcomed some of the improvements on the position of the Council and the Commission on Budget 2016. However, the group believes it is still far from what it is needed to address the difficulties[5].

The Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD), the EU political family of Nigel Farage did not support the rejection of the cuts made by the Council to the budget. UKIP MEP and Budget Control committee member, Jonathan Arnott said: “UKIP wanted to save the taxpayers’ money and tabled 142 amendments to decrease the budget but of course EU-worshipping MEPs rejected them leaving ordinary people in national states with a bigger bill[6].”

The Europe of Nations and Freedom group (ENF) of Marine Le Pen, is of the opinion that the budget represents “the money that Brussels takes away from the citizens.[7]” They explained that the budget is ineffective and wrongly spent and that the asylum crisis will not be solved with money. For these reasons, the party voted against the proposal and called for a massive reduction in the budget.

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