Negotiations on the Union's budget framework for 2014-2020 are heading forward: at the General Affairs Council meeting on 27 January the ministers discussed the main priorities of the "multiannual financial framework" (MFF) and - for the first time - also the overall amounts proposed by the Commission.
The aim of the discussion was to see at which level the member states would like to set up the maximum amounts for EU spending and how these amounts should be spread over the different policy fields in the years 2014-2020. The exchange of views was a step towards the substantive discussion on the MFF scheduled for the European Council meeting in June 2012.
"The MFF can serve as an engine for growth. And that was the view expressed by quite a lot of member states", said Nicolai Wammen, the minister for European Affairs of Denmark, who chaired the meeting. "We have to get things right, not least if we want to ensure that the next MFF becomes a driver for change, and thereby contributes to the Europe […] that is dynamic, creative and relevant in the global world."
Mr Wammen said there were two "trends" of opinions among the member states: those delegations which underlined that the next MFF might need to reflect the current crisis and the fiscal consolidation efforts undertaken at the national level, and those which stressed the importance of adequate financing of the EU's common policies, so that the MFF can adequately help addressing common challenges.
"Today's discussion made it clear that the negotiations will not be easy. Nevertheless, I sensed a good common understanding around the table today", said minister Wammen.
January-March 2012: The Council's preparatory bodies will continue examining the MFF proposals and will identify outstanding issues. This work will guide the Danish presidency in drafting a "negotiating box" (a document that contains the outstanding issues in negotiations, as well as the main options).
March-April 2012: Member states will hold further orientation debates at the General Affairs Council meetings. The results will also feed into the draft "negotiating box".
From May 2012 onwards: Regular discussions on the "negotiating box" in the different Council preparatory bodies and at ministerial level.
June 2012:The European Council will discuss the "negotiating box" at its meeting scheduled for 28 and 29 June.
The Presidency of the Council will cooperate closely with the European Parliament throughout the procedure to ensure a swift adoption of the relevant decisions.
The European Council wants the MFF to be adopted by the end of this year. This would ensure a smooth transition between the current and the future MFF, which should come into force on 1 January 2014.
The EU's budget only amounts to around 1% of Europe's gross national income, which represents around one fiftieth of the budgets of member states. It is almost entirely spent on investment.
Public debate webcast
Press conference webcast
Documents relating to the Financial Framework for 2014-2020