EU Commission proposes 6.8% budget increase for 2013

The British government is thought to be among those who would oppose any increase

The European Commission has called for a 6.8% rise in the EU's budget for 2013, saying investment is "desperately needed" to revive growth.

The proposals will be a starting point for negotiations with the EU's 27 national governments and the Euro MPs.

Some EU members, including the UK, have consistently urged the Commission to scale down its spending plans.

But the Commission says it has to fund previously agreed commitments. It says EU staff posts will not be increased.

Under the Commission plan the budget total is set at 138bn euros (£113bn; $182bn).

EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said "there is a desperate call for investment" in Europe's poorer regions.

He said investment expenditure was the only budget area that would be expanded.

For the first time since European integration began in 1957 the trend of growing the EU administration would be halted, he said.

The Commission drafts EU laws, which then have to be agreed with the member states' governments and European Parliament in Strasbourg.

UK criticism

A senior British Conservative politician in Strasbourg, Martin Callanan MEP, called the Commission plan "out of touch with the real world".

The BBC's Nigel Cassidy says the Commission has to pay for a string of long-term projects, such as infrastructure and research programmes, that it is legally obliged to cover.

The Commission will risk accusations of double standards, as it has been leading calls for budget discipline throughout Europe, our correspondent adds.

The draft budget earmarks 62.5bn euros to "job friendly growth" in Europe, of which 49bn euros is for structural and cohesion funds - investment in the EU's least developed regions.

The budget for research programmes is set at 9bn euros.

In 2012 the EU budget was 129.1bn euros, a 1.9% increase on 2011.

The largest allocation - 45.9% - was for the cohesion funds. Agriculture and fisheries took 40.8% of the budget, while EU administration costs amounted to 5.6%.

Hard bargaining

Richard Corbett, an adviser to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, said payments for 2013 already agreed by ministers were now becoming due, as the EU works on a seven-year budget cycle.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said negotiations were already under way for the next cycle, 2014-2020.

The goal is to avoid duplication by pooling Europe's resources, so saving money nationally, Mr Corbett said.

"The usual pattern is that the Commission's initial bid is pared down," he added, and noted that just 2% of public spending is at European level.

The UK government is thought to be among those who would oppose any increase.

"The UK has been consistent that at a time when member states are tightening their belts, the EU must show budgetary restraint," a British government spokesman in Brussels told Reuters news agency.

Poorer member states are meanwhile expected to lobby to keep the regional spending they say is essential for growth and creating jobs.

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