2012 EU budget
MEPs refuse to send back entire 2011 surplus to member states
By Gaspard Sebag | Thursday 21 June 2012
MEPs want to break with the usual practice of sending back the entire surplus of the previous budgetary year to member states. Going against the Council’s position and paving the way for a clash, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) unanimously voted, on 21 June, to use €0.73 billon out of the €1.5 billion surplus in the 2011 EU budget to reinforce payments in budget lines relating to research and cohesion policy, where they foresee a shortfall later during the year.
The surplus identified by the Commission consists of under-implementation (€0.73 billion), competition fines and interest on late payments cashed in towards the end of the year (€0.67 billion) and a positive return relating to changes in interest rates (€0.1 billion). Traditionally, this money is docked off member states’ contribution to EU expenditure. That is what the Commission suggested doing via draft amending budget (DAB) 3 to the 2012 EU budget. The Council agreed when it voted its position, on 11 June.
Yet parliamentarians do not see eye to eye with member states on this issue. They argue, in line with rapporteur Francesca Balzani’s (S&D, Italy) assessment, that the under-implemented expenditure in the 2011 EU budget does not result from absorption difficulties or mismanagement but rather from rigid rules and as such it requires “differentiated treatment” as compared to the part of the surplus that stems from variations in revenue (€0.77 billion). Stating that available indicators point to a shortage in payments in the 2012 budget, MEPs argue that the €0.73 billion should be used to reinforce EU expenditure lines at risk. They want to allocate €0.34 billion in payments to cooperation lines in the EU’s research programmes under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and €0.39 billion to cohesion policy. n