On 29 October 2015, a three-week conciliation period will start, with the aim of reaching a deal between the Council and the European Parliament on the EU budget for 2016. This follows the adoption by the Parliament on 28 October 2015 of amendments that were not acceptable to the Council.
The Council is particularly concerned that the Parliament wants to increase EU expenditure far beyond the ceilings agreed in the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020. The Council considers that the 2016 EU budget cannot be decided in isolation from the expenditure limits agreed in the past and from the financial constraints that member states are currently facing. It also believes that it is wise to keep some financial leeway in case of unexpected events and financial needs. It therefore invites the Parliament to distinguish between measures that might be desirable and those that are essential.
"Budget decisions are like everyone's daily life: you have to make choices with a limited amount of money. The Council is ready to work constructively with the European Parliament to ensure that the right choices are made for the benefit of Europe, its citizens and its economy", said Pierre Gramegna, minister for finance of Luxembourg and President of the Council.
The Council also considers it of utmost importance that all EU institutions decrease the number of their staff to achieve the agreed 5% reduction target by 2017 compared to 2013. "It is vital that all institutions act in line with the letter and spirit of their commitment made in December 2013. If the EU institutions are to retain the trust of Europe's citizens they must abide by their own rules", said Pierre Gramegna.
The Council agrees with the Parliament on the importance of measures to tackle the refugee crisis and is ready to provide exceptional financial resources to help fund them. In fact the Council, together with the Parliament, has already increased commitments by a total of €490.3 million and payments by a total of €133.6 million from the 2015 EU budget in response to the migration crisis. The Council has accepted without change the resources for migration-related measures proposed by the Commission in its 2016 draft budget. And the Council is also willing to discuss additional support from the 2016 EU budget, on the basis of the Commission's amending letter no 2.
In its draft budget for 2016 the Commission proposed to set the total level of commitments at €153.83 billion and of payments at €143.54 billion. This is a decrease of 5.2% in commitments and an increase of 1.6% in payments compared to the 2015 budget as amended by amending budgets no 1-7.
The Council's position, adopted on 4 September by unanimity, amounts to €153.27 billion in commitments (-5.5%) and €142.12 billion in payments (+0.6%).
The European Parliament asks for total commitments to be increased to €157.43 billion (-3.0%) and total payments to €146.46 billion (+3.7%). This is €1.5 billion and €1.3 billion respectively above the ceilings of the multiannual financial framework.
As regards staff numbers, according to the methodology applied by the Commission to all institutions in an equal way the Council will have reduced its establishment plan posts by 4.5% and the Commission by 4% between 2013 and 2016. The Parliament, however, would have increased its staff by 0.4% over the same period. In their interinstitutional agreement on budgetary discipline agreed in December 2013 the three institutions committed to decrease their staff numbers by 5% between 2013 and 2017.
Conciliation will also cover amending letter no 2 for 2016 which is aimed at increasing support for the most vulnerable member states, the relocation of refugees and the migration and border funds by €1.55 billion in commitments and €1.42 billion in payments from the 2016 budget. Neither the Council nor the Parliament have yet taken a position on the amending letter.