No time to be bluffing over EU budget
Posted, April 25, 2012 @ 16:00
The European Commission today (Wednesday) presented to the European Parliament's budget committee its proposal for the EU's 2013 budget.
As predicted in newspaper reports last week, commissioners are seeking an increase of almost seven per cent in the overall budget.
The United Kingdom contributes 12.4 per cent of the EU's spending and the proposed budget would add £898 million, bringing Britain's annual bill to £14 billion.
Richard Ashworth, the leader of the UK's Conservative MEPs and a member of the budget committee, commented: "We knew this figure was in the commission's thinking - but it is unfortunate that commissioners have not taken the opportunity to think again.
"The wish to spend still more money, the decision to seek an increase way beyond inflation, is unrealistic and unacceptable.
"Commissioners really should know that. We Conservatives have plainly told them this. The priority should instead be reallocation within an overall budgetary freeze, focusing on those areas that are known to be of most benefit to taxpayers.
"That should mean urgently targeting growth and tackling high unemployment and abandoning a lot of costly pet projects."
"As is the nature of European politics, this may well be an opening bargaining position from the commission. However, it is not a sensible approach to negotiation to submit a claim so outlandish that it can only provoke anger or incredulity.
"If such an approach to the budget process was ever credible, it certainly is not now. When the euro is on the critical list, when financial markets are in turmoil and when national governments in every corner of Europe are taking painful austerity measures, this is no time for a game of bluff.
"The commission cannot carry on thinking the EU is a special case and looking to spend money we don't have. Greater respect must be shown for the patience and the pockets of taxpayers. Rather than suggesting such large increases, the commission should be preparing consolidation budgets with the limited resources available being spent on areas such as information and communication technology, research and innovation and the promotion of free trade.
"Conservative MEPs can show the commissioners a whole string of areas where significant cost can be taken out of this budget. We urge them to listen to this advice, to reconsider their position and to come back with budget proposals that bear a closer relation to reality."