Auteur: Benjamin Fox
BRUSSELS - MEPs have approved the first-ever cut to the EU’s seven-year spending cycle in the bloc’s history, bringing to an end over a year of talks.
The European Parliament voted for the €960 billion earmarked for the period 2014 to 2020 on Tuesday (19 November) by 537 votes to 126, as the parliament's three largest groups swung behind the deal.
MEPs at the Strasbourg plenary session also voted on a series of programmes that are linked to the seven-year plan, including the Erasmus student exchange programme, and the Connecting Europe facility, together with reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy.
EU leaders agreed on the spending levels at a specially-convened summit in February.
However, a stand-off between governments and the parliament emerged after MEPs insisted that they would not sign off on the budget without assurances that the commission can pay its outstanding bills for this year.
The EU executive says that it has been the victim of continuous under-budgeting in recent years, leaving it unable to pay its bills without extra money.
A series of amending budgets worth over €15 billion have been proposed by the commission during 2013 in a bid to plug funding shortfalls.
MEPs were also unhappy about the overall cuts to EU spending, demanded by governments currently imposing domestic austerity programmes.
Deputies were able to insert a "revision clause", which will require the European Commission to present a review in 2016 of how the budget framework is working.
Each year of the budget "represents more money - in today's prices - than the whole Marshall plan in its time," Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said following the vote.
"Our modern, future-oriented budget can make a real difference to people's lives."