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EU budget, leaders reach agreement. Funds for climate, youth, and migration

Last night  the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the EU gave the green light to the 2020 budget. €168.69 billion in commitments and €153.57 billion in payments: substantial sums for projects and investments in favour of citizens and territories. But the sum amounts to less than 1% of EU-27 GDP. Funds for businesses, employment, security, migration, Galileo, European Solidarity Corps: however, much more could be done with more money

In the aftermath of the agreement, there is talk of “success”, of “progress”… On the evening of Monday, November 18, EU budgetary authorities – i.e. Parliament and the Council of Ministers – reached a deal on the 2020 budget, even though the overall annual amount that member States are willing to invest collectively will not exceed, once again, 1% of European GDP. However, it amounts to over €150 billion which, after a 7% deduction for administrative costs, returns to EU countries in the form of investments.

Two key figures. The budgetary authorities of the European Union, with the support of the Commission, have thus agreed on the two main figures: EUR 168.69 billion in commitments and EUR 153.57 billion in payments. Commitments are the legal obligations to spend money that are signed in a given financial year (contracts, grant agreements and decisions). The amounts are not necessarily paid out in the same year but may be spent over several financial years. Payments cover expenditure due in the current year. It should be remembered that the annual budget is included in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF): the 2020 budget concludes the current long-term MFF, which started in 2014, and opens the next – currently under discussion in the EU – for the period 2021-2027. The source of the EU Budget mainly consists in Member Countries’ contributions according to economic capacity, besides VAT and duties.

Needs and resources. According to the Commission (which, pursuant to the Treaties, proposes the draft budget and is responsible for its implementation and for monitoring expenditure) the compromise reached on the EU budget for 2020 “will allow the EU to focus its resources on the priorities that matter to citizens: climate change, jobs, young people, security and solidarity in the EU.” Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Budget, declared: “the budget will channel resources to where the needs are. It will help create jobs, address climate change, and leverage investments all over Europe.”

“It will invest in young people and in making Europe more secure.”

Following the formal approval by the Council, the European Parliament will vote on the 2020 budget during the session in Strasbourg next week.

Environment, research, Galileo. 21% of the overall EU budget for 2020 “will go to measures to address climate change”, is stated in a release. Next year’s budget envisages, for example, that the LIFE Programme for the Environment and Climate Change will receive €589.6 million (+5.6% compared to 2019). Horizon 2020, which traditionally makes a substantial contribution to reaching climate targets, will get €13.46 billion (+8.8% compared to 2019). Other investments for environmental protection include energy and transport sectors. A large part of the investments – €83.93 billion in commitments (+4.1% compared to 2019) –“ will help making our economy more competitive.” Of them, €58.65 billion (+2.5% compared to 2019) “will go to narrowing economic gaps in and between Member States, boosting growth, job creation and fostering convergence via the European Structural and Investment Funds.” The European global satellite navigation system Galileo will be supported with €1.2 billion (+74.7% compared to 2019) “to expand its worldwide market uptake to reach 1.2 billion users by the end of 2020.”

Young people and Erasmus+.  Erasmus+ educational programme for youths will receive €2.89 billion (+3.6% compared to 2019). It’s the greatest allocation that next year’s EU budget dedicates to young people. The European Solidarity Corps – also a programme for young people – “will create opportunities to volunteer or work”, states the Commission, “in projects at home or abroad with €166.1 million” (+15.9% compared to 2019): a rather modest sum, considering that it will be distributed among 27 Countries.

European farmers will benefit from €58.12 billion:

As customary, a large share of the EU budget (more than a third) goes to agriculture, rearing, forests and environmental protection. Security and migration management will continue to receive support. For example, €2.36 billion will go to the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, the Internal Security Fund, and the agencies that work in this field (Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), EASO).

“Realistic approach.” “Next year’s budget strengthens support for the EU’s priority areas and best-performing programmes”, said Kimmo Tiilikainen, State Secretary, Ministry of Finance of Finland, chief negotiation on the Council side (that brings together EU member States’ governments) for the 2020 budget. In his view, the negotiated agreement ensures a realistic approach, taking into account the interests of taxpayers and the need to cater for new challenges that may arise in 2020.” In reality, once again at EU level, Member State governments have decided to allocate a modest total amount considering the tasks conferred on the EU by the Treaties and the citizens’ own expectations of the EU institutions.

“A good sign.” For Jan Van Overtveldt, MEP, Chair of the EU Parliament Committee on Budgets, the agreement reached is “a good sign showing that the EU institutions can deliver.” Perhaps an excessively optimistic view … Without an agreement, however, the EU Commission would have had to present a new draft budget, to be adopted at the beginning of next year, thereby jeopardising a number of projects and funds that benefit local communities, businesses, research centres and universities, and, ultimately, citizens.

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