On the same week that EU leaders gathered in Brussels for an emergency summit on the union's long-term budget, MEPs gathered down the road in Strasbourg to argue over future funding of the EU. A senior MEP, EPP leader Joseph Daul, accused governments such as the UK of "nationalistic navel-gazing" for wanting to cut the so-called Multi-Annual Financial Framework. He was broadly supported by his Socialist and Liberal colleagues, but Conservative leader Martin Callanan took a different view, arguing that cuts could be made up for by "better spending". From the Council of Ministers, there was a call for MEPs to start being realistic - "the EU budget cannot take place in isolation from the economic crisis", warned Cyprus's EU minister.
Budget walk-out defended
MEPs defend budget talks walk-out
Away from the long-term budget, the rows over the EU's budget for 2013 rumbled on, following a walk-out by MEPs from negotiations with the Council of Ministers. The main obstacle was the refusal of the Council to approve 9bn in extra funding for the current budget, prompting parliament president Martin Schulz to comment: "Council was asking us to approve a deficit budget - we are not willing to negotiate in this way." However Ukip MEP Marta Andreasen complained that most EU countries could not afford the 9bn required, and criticised the Commission for mismanagement of EU budgets.
MEPs deeply split over shale gas use
The potential use of shale gas to power the EU's energy needs proved deeply divisive, during a bitter debate in the parliament. Gas trapped in shale rocks can be extracted through a process known as hydraulic fracking. However many MEPs warned against the environmental risks of the process, with Swedish Green Carl Schlyter proclaiming it would "destroy the future of mankind". But the Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger urged MEPs to look at the potential benefits, such as the lower energy costs the procedure has already brought to the US.
MEPs debate the Israel-Gaza crisis
Concerns over Middle East deaths
The outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza was the focus of a debate that saw cross-party concern over deaths of civilians on both sides. However, as the debate was ongoing, Cyprus's foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, speaking on behalf of the EU's High Representative Baroness Ashton, announced a ceasefire, to approval from MEPs. She said a ceasefire was in the interests of both sides, "not least the citizens".
EU criticised by chief auditor
Chief auditor criticises EU budget errors
The president of the European Court of Auditors, Vitor Caldeira, presented his annual report to MEPs, highlighting that once again, he was unable to give a clean bill of health to the way in which the EU spends his money. He was particularly critical of the control mechanisms used to try and reduce the amount of payment errors. The Commission has laid much of the blame at the door of member states for mis-using EU funds, but Danish socialist MEP Søren Bo Søndergård warned that if such failured continued, "voters will punish MEPs at the next election, and rightly so".
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