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Dividing up The EU Cake

The last time I blogged on the EU’s Multi-annual Financial framework (its budget from 2014 to 2020) the European Parliament was yet to pass its views on the agreement reached by the EU Heads of State and Government in February.

As I predicted, the EP did reject the agreement when it voted upon it in Strasburg. But, also as predicted, it did so only in terms of some of its details – rather than rejecting outright the amounts proposed by governments.

The feeling is that the differences between the European Parliament and the governments in the European Council can be bridged without too much difficulty and negotiations are under way under the Irish EU Presidency.

Dividing the total

And so the next step in the great EU budget saga commences: now we know how big it is, how will the cake be divided?

The EU’s external spending in this multi-annual budget has been set at €58.704 billion within the fourth ‘heading’ of the MFF titled ‘Global Europe’.

But within this heading there are 15 different spending instruments, of a variety of sizes, addressing issues from Humanitarian Assistance and Development Aid through to nuclear safety and foreign policy. How the money for Global Europe is divided between competing priorities is therefore key to deciding political priorities for the EU’s external actions to the end of the decade.

Overseas Development Assistance

EU civil society organisations working on humanitarian, development, human rights, and fair trade issues have been joined by political foundations to agree an approach to this priority setting. This joint position if applied by the Council and the European Parliament would ensure that 90% of the EU’s external budget would be classed as ‘Official Development Assistance’ – as called for in the agreement made by EU governments in February.

Additional to all these deliberations is the aid that the EC coordinates to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in the European Development Fund (EDF) under the Lomé Agreement. Whilst these funds are formally outside the EU budget, the 11th EDF has actually been part of the negotiations on the MFF.

States could contribute more

The amount allocated to the EDF detailed at the end of the Governments agreement is below the €30 billion proposed by the European Commission, amounting to €26.984 billion. But as these funds are outside the formal EU budget there is nothing preventing those Member States that wished for a larger budget contributing their share of a larger budget voluntarily.

But the clock is ticking to finalise the allocations within the MFF and adopt the necessary legal instruments to realise and implement this budget.

The battle is therefore well underway for competing spending priorities. The good news is that despite this stage of the process having commenced, EU civil society is still able to put forward a united front in favour of humanitarian and development priorities.

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