It is the 29th of June 2011; the European Commission unveils its long-awaited proposals for the next budget framework for the European Union. This proposal sets the framework for decisions which will affect EU spending from 2014 to 2020.
QCEA had been eagerly awaiting this document (or should I say, these documents, as there is a whole series of them – all are available here) for a number of different reasons:
- because the policy areas within the EU framework which we are actively working on are affected by the EU budget; how the EU spends its money has an impact on how effective it is in pursuing the policies we wish to support and in how extensive its spending is on policies we are critical of. Knowing where the money is, where it comes from, and where it is going, is a key component of effective advocacy.
- because having a budget framework which is transparent and which is understandable for citizens is part of good governance and therefore important for the democratic accountability of the European Union. The issue of democratic accountability has been a part of our work programme since 2002 and this strand of work is part of it.
The headlines – in terms of what the European Commission is saying – are:
- It won’t cost EU tax payers any more than it does now
- It will be based on a concept of European Added Value
- It seeks to mobilise private finance
- Growth – economic growth that is – will be a key driver
Asked whether he thought that the proposals would provide enough funding for the European Union to do what it sets out to do, the Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said ‘no’ but it was as good as it could be given the current circumstances.
On the basis that EU Added Value should – among other things – ensure that spending takes place at EU level if it can be demonstrated that this would be less expensive than spending at any other level for the same policy objective, than this may be a short-sighted response but one that is realistic in the face of Member States’ reluctance to be seen to be ‘giving more money to Europe’.
One of the really new things in this budget is the proposal for a financial transaction tax to generate some of the money for the European Union Budget directly – rather than through the Member States’ tax revenue.
QCEA has assessed the proposals from the perspective of the key policy areas we are working on: energy security, peace (in terms of external action, in terms of research and in terms of the concepts of security which are inherent in the proposal). You can read our analysis here.
What is clear is that there are some good proposals – making 30% of the direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy dependent on compliance with a range of environmentally sound practices, for example (though we will need to wait for the detail to know what these are) and the proposal to ensure that 25% of development assistance will be expected to deliver ‘global public goods’ – again, a policy aimed at ensuring the necessary response to climate change.
There are also things which are regrettable: the fact that significant resources are envisaged for energy and transport infrastructure without any detailed consideration of what the alternatives might be (more locally generated energy from renewable sources rather than transporting energy across large grids; less moving people and goods from a to b rather than building more roads and railways).
There is also still a lot not really clear; the details behind each of the different budget lines relating to different policy areas are to be published later this year. Some may be out by September; others as late as December.
QCEA will stay with the debate and provide analysis and comment. We will continue to develop our advocacy position with colleagues in other NGOs and NGO networks. And we will keep you informed.
Let us know your views and comments.