By Martin Banks - 17th April 2013
This is not only a matter of good practice, but also of sound fiscal responsibility
The European commission is set to receive an €11.2bn 'top-up' to the 2013 EU budget.
If approved by MEPs at this week's Strasbourg plenary, it would represent an 8.4 per cent rise in the EU budget this year compared with 2012.
According to the commission, the increase is needed to cover 'invoices' for EU funding submitted last year and also for increased spending, notably a 15 per cent rise in cohesion funding.
Budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski defended the increase at a meeting of parliament's budgets committee in Strasbourg on Monday.
However, some MEPs continue to oppose the increase, with the ECR group arguing that an increase of more than three percent is too high and must be "significantly" decreased, even given the 'one-off' expenditures which parliament may face.
ECR budgets negotiator Richard Ashworth insisted that parliament and the other EU institutions "must all show increased restraint and budgetary rigour".
The Tory MEP said, "This is not only a matter of good practice, but also of sound fiscal responsibility in tough economic times."
Further comment came from British Tory MEP Marta Andreasen, who said, "This makes a mockery of the entire budget negotiation.
"What is the point of EU budget summits if the commission, aided and abetted by parliament, can drive a coach and horses through the agreements and ask for more money whenever they feel like it?
"This sort of accounting, where one can go cap in hand to compliant MEPs for vast amounts of cash, is an insult to the millions of Europeans, currently suffering harsh austerity measures, who will pick up the bill."
Meanwhile, parliament's president Martin Schulz has reiterated the importance of providing the EU with "adequate" financial means for the next seven years, as well as the "urgent need" to address the risk of a growing EU structural deficit.
He cautioned, "If we don't tackle the current deficit, the commission will have to recommend budget cuts, between €11bn and €16bn, which would have a serious impact on our regions and cities.
"In the coming years, the gap between commitments and payments proposed by the European council would lead to a deficit policy which is unacceptable for parliament," said Schulz.
At the same time he expressed "confidence" in the likelihood of reaching a "good" agreement on the multiannual financial framework - the long-term budget - with member states.
The German deputy was speaking in Brussels at a meeting of the Committee of the Regions.