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EWL and Civil Society Contact Group say EU budget must respect and promote the values and rights of the Union

[Brussels, 21 January 2011] The Civil Society Contact Group, of which the EWL is an active member, has issued a Statement on the European Commission Communication on the Budget Review.

In particular, the EWL and its partners argue that the budget review should be underpinned and guided by the following pronciples:

  • The EU budget must respect and promote the values and rights as outlined in the Lisbon
    Treaty and contribute to achieving the Treaty aims and objectives;
  • EU money is public money and it must serve the European public interest;
  • EU funds must respect the principle of solidarity;
  • Sustainable development must be the overarching goal of a new EU budget;
  • EU funds must be allocated to reflect the EU’s policy priorities, that supports policy coherence and that ends to all perverse subsidies;
  • EU spending should be subject to regular evaluation

Introduction:

Budgets reflect the priorities of those who set them. This is particularly so in the context of
governments and a supranational and intergovernmental body such as the EU. The founders of
the EU understood the importance of budgets when they designed the own resources system;
but this system has essentially broken down and Instead, a system of medium term financial
planning and annual budgeting has developed which is dependent on agreement between
Member States’ governments on the level of expenditure the EU is permitted to incur. This has
led to horse-trading between national interests which have been more focused on questions of
net contributions, just returns, and net gains, than on the values enshrined in the EU Treaties
and the policies the EU has developed at EU level.
This mismatch between the commitments made and current political reality in the system is
one of the major concerns of the Civil Society Contact Group and one of the key drivers behind
the engagement of our platform in the ongoing discussions about the future shape of the EU
budget.

The other key driver is our concern that any public budget such as that of the EU must be
transparent and accountable; that means that both the income and expenditure side of the
budget must be clear, must be understandable, must reflect the values and policies of the EU
and must be debated in an open way with citizens and other people living in the Member
States.

In 2005, the Council of the European Union agreed to undertake a thorough review of the
budget before the next multi-annual financial framework had to be agreed.

From the point of view of the Civil Society Contact Group the process and the result have been
disappointing.

The process, after an enthusiastic and inclusive start, suffered delays and finally fizzled out
with a leaked document in October 2009 which was immediately disclaimed by the European
Commission. The efforts of civil society, academic institutions and others in contributing to the
consultation did not lead to a coherent or systematic analysis of and response to the views
expressed. The slowed-down timescale designed to ensure essentially no time between
publication of the Commission Communication and the start of the discussions about the next
MFF appears intentionally to remove the scope for meaningful discussion between the EU and
other stakeholders about the shape and purpose of the budget rather than budget lines, size
and length of the next framework.

The content is equally disappointing. Comparing the shape of the current budget and the
proposals for the shape of the next budget shows that there is little innovation and little
commitment to doing things in a way that better reflects the EU values and principles or to
give voice and space to the so-called ‘new’ policy priorities of climate change, energy security
and the EU as a ‘global actor’. Nor does it show any intent to review the focus and structure of
current policies and programmes in terms of how they are reflected in the financial framework.
Instead, this is a marginal re-packaging of the status quo.

Download the full CSCG Statement in PDF format:

cscg statement on budget review and mff final

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