SNP Stand Firm On EU Budget Freeze

29 October 2010
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has reiterated his support for a freeze on the European budget as European Council negotiations progress.

In last week's vote in the European Parliament on the budget, SNP MEPs voted for an amendment which sought to freeze the EU budget for 2011, but which was overwhelmingly defeated with 92 votes in favour of freezing the budget, against 564 in favour of an increase.

The budget negotiations between the European Parliament and the European Council, which represents the 27 member states of the EU, began on 27 October. The Conciliation Committee has 21 days to agree on a joint text (see notes to editors for more information on the process).

Smith said:

"In a time of economic uncertainty, hard questions must be asked of every penny, and indeed every cent, that we spend. Across Europe, member state governments are having to show restraint: it is absolutely imperative that the EU does the same.

"While I am well aware that the budget process is complicated, and that a freeze on the overall budget would be inconvenient for a number of projects, I remain of the opinion that a period of harder analysis would do no harm at all. The EU budget should be as effective as possible and there are some budget lines which could certainly take a bit of squeezing.

"What some seem to be overlooking, however, is that this budget is not a foreign budget, but is an integral part of domestic Scottish spending. This is not a foreign debate taking place, with discussions by other EU governments about how much of our money they should pilfer - we are part of this - this money will be coming back to Scotland. Nevertheless, it remains the case that while all other budgets are requiring hard economic analysis, this one should not be immune.

"For the EU budget to increase now only confirms that the majority of MEPs who supported this move are out of touch with the realities on the ground."

More information on the EU budget is provided below:

In its simplest form, the EU budget can be seen as a whole subdivided into seven parts, one for each year of the current 2007-2013 financial framework, in a system that allows longer term planning and year by year flexibility and accountability. The multiannual framework sets the limits and general targets for EU action. The annual budget covers every single item of expenditure, from pencils for administrators, to subsidies for EU farmers and help for its economically less-developed regions.

After the multiannual framework is set, the exact amounts to be spent every year by the EU are decided in negotiations between Parliament and Council, a process set out in detail by the EU Treaties and an inter-institutional agreement between Parliament, Council and Commission. The Lisbon Treaty has substantially enhanced the role of the European Parliament in the process, extending its powers to agriculture and foreign relations.

After a first round of talks between institutions early in the year to agree on the main priorities, the European Commission presents its proposal, or draft budget, at the end of April or beginning of May. Council presents its own version of the draft budget before the end of the summer.

Council's version of the budget is examined by the Parliament's Budgets Committee. After a process of consultation with other committees specialising in various policy areas, in early October the Budgets Committee adopts amendments to the Council's figures based on Parliament's priorities. The revised version of the draft budget is put to Parliament as a whole for adoption during its October sitting.

If the two institutions' versions do not agree, it is necessary to find an agreement. That is the job of a "Conciliation Committee" in which 27 MEPs and 27 Council representatives meet. This Committee undertakes a final 21-day negotiation, at the end of which it should submit an agreed version of the annual budget to the two institutions. Parliament's adoption of the final budget, in its November sitting marks the end of the process.

If there is no agreement, the EU operates using the previous year's budget subdivided into "12ths", one for each month, until an agreement is reached and the new budget can enter into force.

Further explanation on the EU budget process can be found at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/focus_page/034-83461-266-09-39-905-20100923FCS83457-23-09-2010-2010/default_en.htm