First Council discussion on the EU's budget planning
Ministers for European Affairs had a first formal exchange of views on the next long-term financial framework at the General Affairs Council on 12 September. At the heart of the debate were the structure, flexibility and duration proposed by the Commission.
This "multiannual financial framework" (MFF) limits EU spending over a fixed period of time by setting annual caps on EU expenditure as a whole and on each category of expenditure. It thus imposes budgetary discipline on the European Union by making sure that its annual budget does not exceed the agreed ceilings. At the same time, it translates EU policy priorities into figures.
At their meeting, ministers discussed the financial framework's structure proposed by the Commission, which, compared with the current MFF, would place more emphasis on the priorities of the EU's growth strategy Europe 2020.
As regards flexibility, the debate focused on the proposal to create further instruments outside the financial framework, such as a new reserve for crises in the agricultural sector, and to move the international thermonuclear experimental reactor ITER outside the MFF. Four such flexibility instruments, which allow for the inclusion of additional financial means in the annual budget on top of the ceilings agreed in the MFF, already exist: the EU Solidarity Fund, the Emergency Aid Reserve, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the Flexibility Instrument. The ministers considered whether these proposals provided an adequate response to the requirement for budgetary discipline while allowing for sufficient means to address new challenges and emergencies.
The EU Treaty stipulates that the MFF shall be established for a period of at least five years. Consensus was reached among ministers on the duration of the next MFF, which will cover the seven-year-period from 2014 to 2020.
The Polish Presidency of the Council intends to organise structured discussions between the ministers in order to reach a better understanding of the Commission's proposals and the positions of each member state. This would allow for the negotiation phase to start during the Danish Presidency next spring.
Press release (pdf)
Press conference video
Communication from the Commission - A Budget for Europe 2020 (pdf)
Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 website (on Europa server)