MEPs threaten to reject EU budget unless concessions are made
MEPs have backed a resolution that states that a deal on the EU's long-term budget will be rejected, unless key concessions are made in negotiations between the parliament and member states.
During the debate on 13 March 2013, many MEPs criticised the deal reached last month that saw the seven year budget, known as the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), cut by 3.3%, the first time the MFF has been reduced.
The resolution - passed by 506 votes to 161 - calls for a more flexible 2014-2020 budget, so that money not spent in one area can be used in another if needed.
It also calls for a mid-term review of the budget, to give newly-elected MEPs and the next European Commission a say after the European elections next year.
Joseph Daul, the leader of the biggest political group, the centre-right EPP, said there had to be an end to "this awful horse-trading that goes on every seven years".
He said introducing more "own resources" would create a more stable budgetary procedure, as the EU would be able to raise taxes directly, rather than relying on arguments over national contributions.
An alternative resolution from the conservative ECR group that accepted the European Council's deal as "pragmatic and realistic" was rejected, although an ECR amendment that urged MEPs to refrain from holding a secret ballot on the MFF was overwhelmingly passed.
ECR group leader Martin Callanan said: "If we are not accountable for our actions in one of the most important votes we will take in this mandate, how can we claim any kind of democratic legitimacy in the future?"
A final vote on approving the MFF must take place before the end of the year, otherwise existing budgetary ceilings will be rolled over. Negotiations will now resume between the institutions with the aim of reaching an agreement.
The debate was also used to look ahead to forthcoming summit of EU leaders, that takes place in Brussels on 14 and 15 March.
The spring European Council meeting is traditionally used to look at the current economic situation, based on recent figures from the European Commission, and put forward future policies.
However Labour MEP Stephen Hughes questioned the validity of figures provided by Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, and accused the Commission of pursuing "needless austerity [with] enormous damage to our future potential".
The summit will also be used to hear a presentation from the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, on the current situation in the eurozone, as well as a presentation from David Cameron on the forthcoming G8 summit.
Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.
The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.