By Marta Andreasen MEP • The negotiation of the EU's 2011 Budget really started back in April this year when the European Commission presented its first draft. However until the last quarter of the year the debates in the European Parliament were held mostly within the Budget Committee of which I am a member.
At that point the Council and Parliament became more engaged in debating each other and the matter attracted public attention.
After a negotiation that lasted longer than expected both institutions agreed to increase the budget 2.9% with respect to that of year 2010, removing Parliament´s initial political ambitions such as the discussion about a “new way to finance the EU”, in other words a European tax to be collected by them directly from taxpayers pockets. In my honest opinion this budget could have been approved some two months ago – not by me and my UKIP colleagues of course, not this one or any other – and I believe the Parliament has lost face in this exercise.
Since the beginning I was radically opposed to any increase at all arguing at the Budget Committee that it was unacceptable that at the same time member states were introducing heavy cuts to their national budgets, the EU intended to increase its own. Alleging, as the defenders of the increase did, that the EU produces “added value” or that savings can be made in the member states if programmes are run at EU instead of at national level, is, at least unrealistic, if not hypocritical. In addition many programmes require cofinancing, an effort that in these times of crisis, most countries cannot afford, so frankly we could easily do away with most of structural funding – which represents 35% of the budget – without causing any havoc.
It is also difficult to buy into the argument that this increase would improve European economies and create more jobs. The economy will improve if we are able to generate new market opportunities which will consequently create more jobs. But this Union that just a few years ago boasted about turning Europe into a Service provider for the world, has failed in its aim and worse has, at the same time, abandoned its own industry. The EU has severely underestimated the increasing power of Chinese or Indian economies for example, and continues to design policies from its own ivory tower without any understanding of what goes on in the real world. And please do not start thinking I have become protectionist, I am referring to common sense and a proper understanding of how markets work.
At the end of last week, Mr. Cameron triumphantly announced – I was there at the British press briefing in the European Council when he did so – that he had come to an agreement with Germany and France to demand a freeze in the EU budget from 2014. I was left there asking myself – I was not supposed to be in that room so could not ask questions – why he had failed to seize the opportunity to agree with his “best new friends” a REDUCTION of the EU budget as and from NOW and not in two years time. God knows where our wretched economies will be by 2014!!!
Following this press briefing I rushed to the Parliament to attend its Conference of Presidents of Political Groups where Mr. Van Rompuy was going to tell us about the conclusions from the European summit that had just finished. Well…this was amusing. For a start Van Rompuy himself did not appear to have much confidence in the agreement just reached by eurozone member states on a permanent rescue package, as he stated the next meeting of the European Council would be in February “unless a new crisis breaks out before.” In respect to the agreement Mr. Cameron had announced just one hour before, Mr. Van Rompuy claimed he had “heard about it” but had no official information because those negotiations had taken place outside the context of the summit. However the leaders of political groups showed their anger about such an agreement, which in their own sad recognition, leaves the EU in the hands of three member states who eventually make all the decisions. Of course the conclusion they came to – in their own hearts – is that the European Parliament continues to be “quite irrelevant” even after all the powers it believed it had secured with the Lisbon Treaty.
As I always say “follow the money”…without money the EU bureaucracy will not be able to advance in its ambitions of power. That is why I spend a lot of time on the Budget and Budgetary Control committees where I am the ONLY OPPOSITION. I see this work as crucial to getting out of the EU!