EU governments defend cuts to EU budget

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EU governments have come under fire from the European Commission for backing cuts to the draft EU budget for 2014.

The Commission had proposed a budget of €136.06bn, but the Council - which represents member states - has voted to cut this by €1.06bn.

Presenting the Council's position on 10 September 2013, Lithuanian Finance Minister Algimantas Rimkunas said he supported a "realistic and balanced" budget.

He insisted that there were no "general and unjustified cuts" proposed, saying that all planned reductions were on the basis of "detailed analysis of operational expenditure".

However the Council's position was criticised by the EU's Budgets Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, who accused EU governments of "going their traditional way of cutting".

He said he "failed to understand the logic" of the Council's position, and argued that cuts would go against efforts by the EU to boost growth and competitiveness.

The budget is made up of two elements - commitments and payments.

Commitments represents money planned for future projects, and payments represents the money that will be raised from member states.

MEPs are expected to reach their position on the budget by the end of October. If - as usually happens - there are differences between the Parliament and the Council's position, a three week "conciliation" period will commence, with a view to the budget being formally signed during the December plenary session.

Extra funds

The debate was also used to discuss a so-called "amending budget" for 2013, with the European Commission saying an extra €3bn was needed to cover shortfalls in the current budget.

Belgian centre-right MEP Jean-Luc Dehaene - a former Belgian prime minister - said that if EU governments failed to reach agreement on the amending budget, then MEPs could block a vote on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF).

The MFF is the long-term financial framework, that is due to last from 2014 until 2020, but which has still not been formally approved due to rows between the Council and the Parliament.

British Conservative MEP Marta Andreasen said that the need for amending budget was a "sign of failure, a failure to ensure that taxpayers' money is properly spent".

The vote on the amending budget will take place during the daily voting session from 11am on 11 September 2013.

Useful links:

The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

A full speaker's list can be found here.

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