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Brussels: EU Budget Becomes a Tale of Two Cities

It’s not quite a miracle – but it for the EU its quite close.

This morning, a deal on the EU’s Multi-annual Financial Framework – the long-term budget – emerged, with a final push by the Irish EU Presidency.

This is good news for children: it will secure funding from the EU until 2020 for both development aid and the humanitarian assistance that plays such a vital role across the world. And this agreement is also good news for the EU programmes that aid children in difficult circumstances across the EU, as it unlocks greater resources for their priorities.

Earlier this week, I blogged on last week’s political spin from the EC and the Irish EU Presidency aimed at forcing an agreement on the European Parliament. But the Green, Liberal and Socialist groups in the European Parliament rejected this offer. When the General Affairs Council of Ministers met on Tuesday, they had a letter from EP President Schultz making it clear that there was no majority for the deal.

But now an agreement looks much less like spin and much more like an agreement between all three of the EU institutions involved.

So how has this happened?

The first thing to change was the personnel – instead of it being the “chief negotiators” making an agreement (Deputy Irish Prime Minster Eamon Gilmore and Alain Lamassoure MEP aided by Budget Commissioner Lewandowski), it was the heads of the Council Presidency and European Parliament (Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Parliament President Martin Schultz aided by Commission President Manuel Barroso).

The second thing that appears different is the clarity of the concessions the European Parliament has drawn from the Council:

– A fully funded EC programme for 2013
– greater flexibility in the budget, allowing more of the money to be spent sooner in the period from 2014 to 2020
– a binding requirement on the European Commission and the European Parliament to review the budget mid-term
– greater financing for youth unemployment, including additional voluntary Member State contributions.

This deal now becomes A Tale of Two Cities: Brussels and Strasbourg.

In Brussels over the next two days, the Heads of Government and Heads of State of all 27 Member States will review the deal. If they do indeed endorse it,  then the Parliament will vote on it in Strasbourg next week and Europe will have its budget to 2020 agreed at last.

Next, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty: the detail of how this EU budget is spent, on which priorities and how to make it best serve the needs of children around the world. Watch this space…

Update by author:
The European Council meeting of EU leaders in Brussels has given its consent to the Political agreement negotiated on its behalf by the Irish EU Presidency.

This means it is all down now to a vote in the European Parliament in Strasburg next week. Their debate on the deal is scheduled for Tuesday 2 July and the vote for Wednesday 3 July.

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