MFF in limbo as Council and EP talk at cross purposes

The 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) negotiations are still in limbo as the Council and the European Parliament continue to talk at cross purposes. The Irish Presidency, negotiating on behalf of the Council, believes all the conditions are in place for talks to start. MEPs disagree and ask for more guarantees concerning the way forward to fill a payments gap in the 2013 EU budget. The Ecofin Council, meeting on 14 May, will be crucial in respect to the latter point.

The Commission is panicking at the delay. Over two months and a half after the summit deal on the EU’s long-term budget was reached, on 8 February, formal negotiations between EP and Council have still not started. Shifting the goalposts, Parliament went from asking, in mid-March, that the Commission present a top-up request to fill an anticipated payments gap in the 2013 EU budget to requesting political guarantees that the €11.2 billion gap flagged by the Commission a few weeks later in draft amending budget 2 (DAB) will be filled as a precondition for opening talks.

EU Committee of the Regions President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso also calls for rapid agreement on the 2013 top-up. To address Parliament’s concerns, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore believes that the General Affairs Council of 22 April “sent a strong signal of its determination to find a solution to the 2013 budget issue”. On the basis of ministerial input, the deputy prime minister announced at the end of the meeting that the Council was ready to work “urgently” on the 2013 top-up to reach agreement “in the coming weeks on a substantial amending budget to meet clearly justified payment needs”.

“All the conditions for negotiations are now in place,” Gilmore said at an event organised by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), on 25 April. Agreeing to work on a fast track on DAB 2 and conceding the link with the MFF are “significant commitments,” says a diplomat.

The EP disagrees and decided to scorn the three-way talks, scheduled on 25 April. “I am very disappointed with the decision taken by Parliament to cancel the meeting,” said Gilmore at the CEPS event. To break the deadlock, Parliament has suggested organising a high-level meeting between European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EP President Martin Schulz and Gilmore, on 6 May. Dublin agreed to participate.
Things are unlikely to move ahead very much before the Ecofin Council, on 14 May, during which the Presidency is aiming to get a political agreement on DAB 2. Before then, the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) will examine the question, on 2 and 8 May. Gilmore underlined that failure “to agree in good time” puts in jeopardy the efficient planning for the 2014-2020 MFF worth €908.4 billion in payments. For the current spending period, cohesion projects were rolled out with some delay even though a final agreement with Parliament was reached in April. “We are running out of time,” said Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski in a statement, on 24 April.

Source: Europolitics


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