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Budget 2013: Parliament reiterates payments shortfall worries

EU budget payments for 2013 must not be capped "artificially", without any reference to real budgetary requirements, MEPs warned EU Member States in budget guidelines voted in on Wednesday. Parliament acted to ensure that Member States do not put the European Commission in a position where it can no longer honour its contractual obligations, as they did in December last year.

The budgetary guidelines reflect the MEPs' wishes and priorities for the EU's forthcoming 2013 budget. The Commission is currently preparing the draft, which will be presented in mid-April. The guidelines were approved with 513 votes in favour, 106 against, and 73 abstentions.

Looming shortage of payments

Parliament is "extremely worried" about the looming shortage of payments in 2012, which may overshadow the negotiations concerning next year's budget. In December 2011 no solution was found to claims for funding amounting to €10 billion, as some Member States questioned the financial data provided by the Commission. These payments had to be postponed to 2012 and will inevitably lead to a shortage of funds by the end of the year.

"To postpone payments again to 2013 - the last year of the current multiannual financial framework (MFF) in which payments would normally increase - could lead to payments of interest on debts and loss of confidence in EU policies. A solution needs to be found as early as possible in the year", said Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), who will steer next year's budget through Parliament.

No artificial cuts

The report highlighted that although the level of payments are the result of previously agreed commitments, this shortfall has become the main political issue within the Council in the past few budgetary procedures. MEPs insist the budget should be determined on the basis of technical criteria such as implementation figures, absorption forecasts and the level of outstanding commitments.

If the Council continues to cut payments artificially during this year's budget procedure, "it should clearly and publicly identify and justify which of the EU's political priorities or projects it believes could be delayed or dropped altogether", say MEPs.

Focus on youth employment and SMEs

Parliament wants next year's EU budget to focus on youth employment and small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs). MEPs welcomed similar statements by the Members of the European Council on 30 January.

Promoting growth and job creation requires specific actions and enhanced budgetary efforts to nurture competitiveness and innovation and offer support to SMEs. These measures accounted for 85% of the newly-created jobs between 2002 and 2010 and are seen as the backbone of economic growth.

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