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The EU budget saga continues

It has been about a month now since the EU’s leaders agreed their vision for the EU’s budget from 2014- 2020 – the Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF.

After the summit I blogged that the process is far from over and the now the European Parliament will take its turn to consider its position.

EU budgets: one month on

Well, one month later and the initial strong position that the European Parliament adopted has proved as robust as a light frost on a sunny spring morning.

A week is a long time in politics so a month is a very long time – especially for the arm-twisting of MEPs from their political parties back home that are in government and part of the summit deal.

With a European Parliament election only next year, these MEPs certainly don’t want to upset their parties at the moment!

Voice from Europe

This week the European Voice newspaper led with reports that the European Parliament will not seek to reopen the total amounts agreed at the summit when it votes upon a resolution on the MFF at its plenary in Strasburg next week.

Instead its resolution will focus on process issues and the need to ensure that the MFF adopted includes sufficient flexibility to respond to later circumstances.

If these press reports are indeed accurate, then the next phase of the debate quickly opens up.

And nothing in Brussels would suggest otherwise, as confirmed only today in a lunchtime discussion jointly hosted by the French and German development agencies with key MEPs and the European Commission.

Spending priorities

The next phase of the debate is on spending priorities.

While the overall amounts under each of the MFF headings will have been settled, the debate now begins on which priorities these amounts will be spent on, and how much is allocated to which of the numerous  ‘instruments’ within the budget.

For development this means a debate on how the money in ‘Heading Four’ – called ‘Global Europe’ – will be allocated.

This money is comprised of several different elements, including money to assist the enlargement of the EU and money for the near-neighbours of the EU, as well as development spending and humanitarian assistance.

The battle is on

The battle will now start on making sure that the priorities for development receive enough of this, as well as finalising the actual legal instruments under which these budgets will be allocated.

For development this means a new ‘Development Cooperation Instrument’ and a new European Development Fund.

The debates over these instruments has already commenced.

It seems that the MFF is something that will continue for some time yet!

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