The European Parliament debated today the Council’s position on the EU budget for 2017. Among the measures proposed, GUE/NGL has called for financial support for the regions expected to be most affected by Brexit once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been invoked.

Notably the committee on budgets (BUDG) proposed an increase in support for UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees and for the establishment of a search and rescue programme to respond to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. The committee warned that the financing of new initiatives should not be to the detriment of existing Union programmes and policies.

However gaps remain between the Parliament and the Council, with GUE/NGL critical of the overall emphasis on securitisation in the budget – the fulfilment of ‘fortress Europe’ – sacrificing existing cohesion and integration programmes. Differences will have to be settled in a Conciliation Committee tasked to agree on a joint text within 21 days. 

GUE/NGL MEP Liadh Ní Riada welcomed the Parliament’s proposals to re-start the Youth Employment Initiative and increases in the budget for research, education, training and environmentally sustainable development, including a proposal to overrule the Council’s cuts on environmental programmes. She criticised on the other hand the Council for doing the opposite and pushing for cuts:

“While we understand our new challenges, we can’t ignore the need for our existing priorities to be strengthened – job creation, growth, public investment, climate change targets and our future generations. It is often said that Europe is becoming more social and progressive but it is clear that it is not.”

“The Council says that young people are a priority but they don’t fund them. It is high time for the Council to live up to its words in relation to young people.”

The Irish MEP gave the example of coastal communities which will be affected if the cuts go ahead:

“The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is being cut back. Coastal communities are dying and this will only speed things up. Fishing communities were sold out for membership of the EU. The Council should use all the instruments available to deal with their needs.”

Spanish MEP Xabier Benito Ziluaga argued that the Parliament’s proposals do not go far enough:

“The Parliament proposes budgetary cuts of 5 per cent, less than the 6 per cent proposed by the European Commission but cuts nevertheless. What we need is an ambitious budget supported by fair taxation that promotes equality and more investment to create jobs and a transition model.”

“Europe is facing a huge financial and employment crisis, a shameful humanitarian crisis and an urgent environmental crisis. A situation that requires a rethinking of the model we want for Europe and this budget should reflect that.”

Portuguese MEP Miguel Viegas said that the EU’s budget is out of touch with reality and out of touch with the needs of the EU:

“The EU is in a deep crisis, inequality is growing and there are high levels of poverty. Yet this budget falls short in redistribution and it is very aggressive and militaristic when it comes to external policy.”

“The budget should address development needs and social and territorial cohesion and bolster the special earmarked tools to correct the errors of our external policy,” the MEP concluded.  

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