Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Multi-annual financial framework debate

A senior MEP has warned national governments against engaging in "nationalistic navel-gazing" during a debate on the EU's long-term budget.

The debate on 21 November 2012 came ahead of a summit of EU leaders to try to reach a deal on the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), which is due to run from 2014-2020 and sets the framework for the annual budgets of the EU.

The leader of the centre-right EPP group, Joseph Daul, criticised those EU governments, such as the UK, Netherlands and Sweden, who want to cut the European Commission's proposal of just over €1tn, around 1.03% of EU gross national income (GNI).

"Under no circumstances can help for our poorest citizens be taken away in this way," he stated.

The biggest items of spending, accounting for about 80% in total, are agriculture and cohesion funds - aid for Europe's poorer regions. France is especially keen to maintain agriculture spending, while cohesion is a big issue for the ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe.

MEPs have called for "significant increases" in the budgets for competitiveness, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), sustainable infrastructure and research and innovation. They see those budget areas as growth-enhancing.

There was further criticism of member states by socialist leader Hannes Swoboda who accused them of wanting "a race to the bottom", whilst liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt warned that the European Parliament would be ready to try to block a deal.

However Conservative group leader Martin Callanan defended calls for a freeze - or even a cut - in the MFF.

He urged the EU institutions to engage in "better spending", questioning the benefit of increasing the number of EU agencies and the European Parliament's monthly journeys to Strasbourg.

Speaking on behalf of the Council - which represents member states - Cyprus's EU minister Andreas Mavroyiannis urged MEPs to be realistic.

"We have been through a serious economic crisis. The EU budget cannot take place in complete isolation from these realities - to reach a compromise we must go below the Commission's proposal," he concluded.

A number of MEPs called for greater use of "own resources" as a means of funding the EU, such as through an EU-wide sales tax or VAT.

A system of own-resources could also mean the end of the UK's rebate, as many MEPs say the current system polarises the EU into two opposing camps - the net contributor countries and the net beneficiary countries.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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