MEPs sitting on the EU’s Budget Committee in the European Parliament have decided to boost funds for students taking part in the popular Erasmus+ programme, as well as for climate protection, research, tackling migration, and youth unemployment, all of which are part of a restoration of the European Council’s original funding cuts in the bloc’s 2019 draft budget.
The draft budget for 2019 of €166.3 billion in commitments is over €717 million more than the initial European Commission draft budget plan and was endorsed by the MEPs of the corresponding committees.
A boost in Erasmus+, research, infrastructure
The budget for the Erasmus+ programme will increase by €362 million. This will fully restore the pre-EFSI budgets of the Connecting Europe Facility that mostly funds infrastructure projects that connect the EU’s Member States. The Horizon 2020 programme that backs the Union’s research projects will see its budget fluctuate by an additional €256.9 million.
In the previous proposal, both for CEF and Horizon 2020, had suffered massive cuts and leaving little fiscal space to finance the EU guarantee for the European Fund for Strategic Investments, also known as the Juncker fund. The MEPs, however, opted to further increase Horizon 2020 by another €65 million and projects related to climate-related spending under Horizon 2020, CEF, and the Heading-2 programmes by another €97.3 million.
MEPs from the Budget Committee also decided to add another €346.7 million for the Youth Employment Initiative, raising the total for 2019 to €580 million. For the European Union’s security-related programmes and agencies, another €74.7 million was added, along with the €50 million given for support to member states affected by the African swine fever and €28.9 million for support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Migration budget reinforced
Budgets with a clear link to the root causes of migration within the EU’s immediate and wider neighbourhood were also bolstered by the Committeee, with the Development Cooperation Instrument receiving €147.5 million in additional funds. The European Neighbourhood Instrument for southern neighbours and Palestine was awarded €146 million, and the pre-accession support for the Western Balkans – a programme that has seen significant activity in the last year – by €56.3 million.
With the number of immigrants entering the EU still relatively high, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund will receive €33 million for the upcoming year.
Turkey’s second tranche in question
The Committee’s MEPs insisted that the second tranche of a €3 billion aid package for refugees in Turkey must not exceed €1 billion, which nearly halves the total that the Commission proposed for Turkey’s migrant relief efforts for 2019 as €550 million has already been disbursed.
While the EU Council insists on €2 billion in contributions from the EU budget and the EU executive for Turkey’s accession fund, the EU Council’s cuts bring Brussels’ contribution drop by €66.8 million, bringing the support to pre-accession levels for Turkey.
The cuts come at a time when the relationship between Ankara and Brussels is becoming increasingly strained over the rollbacks to democracy in Turkey and the authoritarian hold tendencies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Budget Committee will make all details available at a meeting on October 8-9, after which, the MEPs will vote on a Draft Budget for 2019 on October 24, kicking off three weeks of “conciliation” talks with the Council. The aim will be to reach a deal between the two institutions in time for next year’s budget to be voted on by the Parliament and signed by its President at the end of November.