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European Parliament leaders: We will veto hard-fought EU budget

The leaders of the four main groups say ‘non’ to the deal – making it virtually impossible for Ireland to steer it past MEPs.

The European Parliament has to approve any EU budget - and the leaders of its four biggest groups say they won't do so.
The European Parliament has to approve any EU budget - and the leaders of its four biggest groups say they won't do so.
Image: Remy de la Mauviniere/AP

THE LEADERS of the four major groupings in the European Parliament have said they will oppose the draft EU budget for the rest of the decade which was agreed by European leaders in Brussels this afternoon.

The leaders of the centre-right, liberal, centre-left and green groupings – which account for all but one of Ireland’s 12 MEPs – issued a joint statement which said the draft deal was not enough to make Europe competitive enough.

The leaders said Herman van Rompuy, the European Council head who engineered the deal between the 27 government leaders, had not approached MEPs or tried to set out any negotiations which could allow MEPs to approve the budget.

The statement of the leaders – who between them lead groups accounting for 604 of the parliament’s 754 members – is significant, as no budget can be formally adopted without the approval of MEPs.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz – who is from one of the four groups mentioned – had previously suggested that it could be nearly impossible to find a majority of MEPs in favour of the “common denominator” of the budget deal.

Though European party groupings are relatively week – with members regularly breaking ranks from their parties to oppose their official stances – the sheer size of the four groupings essentially means the Budget is destined for failure.

This, in turn, is bad news for Ireland – which will have the near-impossible task of working with the parliament to decide how funding for individual EU institutions and agencies will be apportioned.

‘We can’t approve this’: the statement in full

The following is a statement from Joseph Daul of the EPP (which includes Fine Gael), Hannes Swoboda from the S&D group (which includes Labour), Guy Verhofstadt from the ALDE liberal group (including Fianna Fáil and Marian Harkin) and Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit from the Greens group.

The core priority behind Parliament’s choices is the ambition to promote growth and investment in the EU, and thus to contribute to Europe’s sustainable recovery from the crisis.

This agreement will not strengthen the competitiveness of the European economy. It is not in the prime interest of our European citizens.

The European Parliament cannot accept today’s deal in the European Council as it is. We regret that Mr Van Rompuy did not talk and negotiate with us in the last months.

The real negotiations will start now with the European Parliament. We will maintain our priorities which we have clearly stated many times.

We see with astonishment that EU leaders agree to a budget that could lead to a structural deficit. Large gaps between payments and commitments will only store up trouble for the future and not solve existing problems. We remain firm on the respect of Article 310 of the Treaty which requires a balanced budget.

In addition to this there are four important points that we will not abandon:

First, we are calling for increased flexibility using Qualified Majority Voting : between years and between categories of spending. It is a sensible approach which will allow us to make the best use of our financial resources.

Second, we are also standing firm on a compulsory revision clause with a Qualified Majority Vote in the Council, which should allow us to revise the financial framework in two or three years. We don’t accept an austerity budget for seven years.

Third, with this same sense of responsibility we are calling for new, genuine own resources for the European budget to progressively replace the current system based heavily on national GNI contributions.

Fourth, we cannot accept a budget based solely on priorities of the past. We must maintain support for future-oriented policies, strengthening European competitiveness and research.

The outcome of the final budget will determine whether the second decade of the 21st century will be remembered as the time of further integration for the benefit of all Europeans or the time of a standstill for Europe, or even falling behind in a globalised world.

Read: Leaders strike a deal on EU budget until 2020

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Gavan Reilly

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