The European Parliament on October 25 approved a resolution on the European Union’s budget for 2018. With 414 votes to 163, with 90 abstentions, the resolution reaffirmed their commitment to “financing Union policies that enhance jobs and growth in all its regions through investments in research, education, infrastructure, SMEs and employment, in particular among young people”.
According to a European Parliament press release, the MEPs increased the Youth Employment Initiative by €366.7m in commitment appropriations, raising the total to €600m, to help youngsters desperately seeking a job.
They rejected the Council’s “unjustified €750m cuts” in the “growth and jobs” area, warning that such cuts “would jeopardize programmes with real European added value and a direct impact on job and growth creation, such as Horizon 2020 or the Connecting Europe Facility.”
As regards migration and asylum, the MEPs boosted the Commission’s draft budget for agencies with security-related tasks including Europol, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
For Turkey, MEPs cut pre-accession funds by €50 million (with a further €30 million put in reserve) in view “of the worrying deterioration of the situation as regards democracy, rule of law and human rights.”
“We want to achieve our priorities of firstly growth and jobs, and secondly, the safety, the security of citizens, by investing in research and innovation, infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises, the Erasmus programme,” said lead rapporteur Siegfried Mureşan (EPP, RO). “We also want to strengthen measures on combating youth unemployment, and stand by the side of young farmers.
“We will not accept any cuts on important programmes for European citizens during the upcoming negotiations with the Council”, he underlined after the vote.
In a statement, Siegfried Mureşan MEP, General Rapporteur for the 2018 EU Budget, and Manfred Weber, EPP Group Chairman, explained that accepting the European Council’s proposed cuts would have meant endangering the economic recovery of the EU and putting at risk millions of jobs.
“This is why we decided to reinforce funding for EU Agencies in the field of justice and home affairs so they can cope with additional tasks and workloads,” said Mureşan.
From the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament, Daniele Viotti said: “We have increased funds to tackle the root causes of migration, as well as support the reception and integration of migrants into European society. We have also reversed cuts to vital programmes such as Horizon 2020, which funds science and research, and the Connecting Europe Facility, which supports cross-border infrastructure.”
Viotti, who is the S&D negotiator, added that European Parliament has “managed to create an EU budget for EU citizens”.
“These proposals can help tackle many of our citizens’ concerns and help curb the rise of populist and anti-European movements. We urge the Council to recognise this in the upcoming negotiations and support our proposals.”
European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) Group’s budget spokesman Bernd Koelmel, however, argued that the European Parliament’s continued calls for budget increases serves only to fuel continued attacks from parties determined to drive the EU apart.
“Looking for the parliament’s savings in the EU budget is like looking for snow in summer,” he said. “It seems to me that what happens every year during budget negotiations is that the parliament’s position aims to protect the position of ‘pro-European’ MEPs. This is a mistake that forgets the simple fact that it’s taxpayers’ money we are talking about.
“We have regularly said that it would be sensible to start preparing for the UK’s withdrawal and focus the budget more on key areas such as the internal market, the fight against terrorism and security, research, the environment and migration. Using the EU budget to prop up failing national programmes on youth unemployment and education should not be an option – this is member states’ responsibility.”