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Deal or No Deal? EU Multi Annual Budget Debate gets Murky

In the depths of Wednesday night, a deal was apparently done on the EU’s Multi Annual budget, which will provide funds for all EU spending 2014-2020. That is, a deal was announced by the Irish Presidency of the EU and the European Commission.

I last blogged on the interminable debate over this budget at the end of April. Save the Children and development NGO partners in Brussels have been urging the EU to adopt a budget appropriate for the EU’s development objectives: one that would really serve children’s needs.

I also explained how an agreement had yet to be made between the European Parliament and the member states represented by the Irish Presidency of the EU. While this was going to be difficult, it appeared that all the elements for an agreement were within reach.

That agreement appeared to emerge Wednesday night, with both the Irish Presidency of the EU and the lead European Commissioner for the budget issuing announcements. But come Thursday morning, things looked very different.

The representatives of the European Parliament that attended these negotiations said bluntly that there had been no agreement and that both the European Commission and the Irish Presidency were trying to gain an advantage by playing the media. MEP Reimeer Boege, a German Christian Democrat, has held the role of “rapporteur” on this budget since 2004. However, Boege was so disgusted with the spin to the media that he resigned. MEP negotiators from the other large political groups supported his stance.

Nothing agreed

Indeed, Hannes Swobeda, President of the Socialist MEPs, pointed out that text was only promised to them by lunchtime on Thursday, so how could it have been agreed Wednesday night? Their collective disbelief at the process is evident in this video clip of their presentation to the Budget Committee on Thursday morning.

So what now?

Well, the various European Parliament groups will have to debate internally whether they support this text (when they have it). A meeting of the member states is scheduled on June 25 to discuss and endorse the agreement: if there is strong opposition then the Council of Ministers will likely postpone this debate. Otherwise, the Council will consider the compromise and the Parliament as a whole will vote on it at the start of July.

Only then will we know whether this divide-and-rule political game will deliver an EU budget for the rest of the decade. Either way, it does the EU’s reputation for shady deals behind closed doors no favours. Whatever happens, Save the Children in Brussels will continue to press for an EU budget that can best meet the needs of children. Especially in the details of how this budget is spent – which will be the next step after the overall level of the budget is finally agreed.

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