By Marta Andreasen MEP
The European Parliament, and more precisely the Budget Committee of which I am a member, has been working on the draft budget for 2011. The discussion has been about reconciling the position of the Commission who wants almost a 6 % increase over 2010 and that of the Council who will accept less than half the increase the Commission proposes.
The Budget Committee – with my exception- has voted in favour of an increase which exceeds the Commission proposal though it stays within the limits of the Financial Perspective (this is the 7 year plan which started in 2007 and will end in 2013).
However the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, its governing body, decided to join the fray and scream for a “more ambitious budget” that reflects the new competences of the house as per the Lisbon Treaty. In fact I do not remember anybody mentioning – at the time of ratification – that there would be any cost associated and what this cost would be for the taxpayer. Not even today do we have a clear idea about what the Lisbon Treaty implementation will cost to the taxpayer. Those who defend the increase also allege that in times of crisis, austerity is not the right answer, on the contrary, it is necessary to spend more on education, renewable energy, etc. etc. If someone would take the trouble to review the EU accounts, and the outturn of the budget for the past years he or she would be able to identify numerous budget lines where there has been no expenditure at all.
The reasons for this underspend can be many and of diverse nature but what is clear is that the EU does not succeed in producing an “efficient” budget. It would be more sensible, therefore, that in these critical times the EU would look to invest those “savings” in those noble activities that they say will take us out of the crisis, instead of increasing the budget. Sadly this theory- that of saving in some areas to invest in others- of which I am a strong defender, has almost no support among the different political groups.
But what I find stunning is that in times of crisis, when all member states are looking to reduce their budgets, the EU is looking to increase its own. More difficult to explain is that the European Parliament dares to double its own entertainment budget.What planet do these people live in? While most taxpayers wake up every morning thinking about how to make ends meet, the European Parliament asks for more champagne and oysters.
However, the story does not end here. The European Parliament will soon be facing the Council who rejects such increases and is therefore finding a way to convince the latter without too much struggle. And guess what the solution is: the funding will not come from the national budgets or the national treasury, the European Parliament is proposing that a direct EU tax is levied from European taxpayers. I have already referred in this blog to the possible European tax, and believe me, whatever the form the tax takes – tax on financial transactions, tax on travel due to gas emmissions, etc. the burden will always be transferred to the taxpayer.
I can confirm to you today that the Budget committee has already voted in favour of opening the budget line for this extra “own resource” that the tax would represent, and they have also opened an expenditure line to match the extra income, all with my strongest opposition.
During the coming week the MEPs will be asked to vote to approve this disgraceful arrangement. The European Commission will be publishing a paper about this extra own resource which will pave the way for the EU to levy this already during 2011. I will speak and even SCREAM against it. Please do join me in expressing strong opposition!!! Call the British government to account and ask them to explain why they are accepting this!!!! I will keep you posted on any news.