Late last month, the European Parliament endorsed the final form of the EU budget for 2018
The 160.1 billion Euro budget was finalized after several rounds of talks between representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council. At the negotiations, Romania was represented by Siegfired Muresan, an MEP and member of the European People’s Party.
With a view to consolidating the 2018 budget, as early as the start of 2017 the MEPs adopted a report indicating which should be the budget allocation priorities to be considered by the European Commission. Here is the Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan.
Siegfried Muresan: “We said from the very start of the year that the main priorities should be economic growth, the creation of new jobs and then citizens’ safety. In order to reach these goals, we said that the European funds must be invested especially in those fields that trigger an increase in the EU’s economic competitiveness, namely innovation, research, infrastructure, SMEs, Erasmus scholarships for students. As regards the second top objective, citizens’ safety, we said the main action lines would be to strengthen the EU agencies that have responsibilities in the field of justice and internal affairs: EUROPOL, EUROJUST and the European Asylum Support Office – EASO. These are the EU institutions focused on fighting terrorism and providing a better exchange of intelligence between the members states with regard to suspects of terrorism, arms, drugs and human trafficking. The second instrument is the preparatory action proposed last year by the European Commission in the field of security. The EU has stated: we want to do more in terms of European security and defense, and for that we will allocate money from the EU budget too. The third tool, which will help keep citizens safer within the EU is support for the EU’s eastern and southern neighborhoods, because one cannot be safe inside the EU unless one is surrounded by countries that are themselves secure and stable. Therefore, we are talking first about the eastern neighborhood, namely Georgia, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, which have already taken the European path, and then the southern neighborhood, namely the north of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, where obviously there are threats for the EU.”
The European Commission presented the draft budget in May, and negotiations ended on November 18th. The Council then voted on November 29th, and the European Parliament on the 30th. The Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan told us which were the results.
Siegfried Muresan: “As regards economic growth, the creation of new jobs and increasing competitiveness, we managed to get 70 million Euro more for the Horizon 2020 programme, which means research, development and innovation. So, the total budget for research and innovation next year stands at 11.2 billion Euro. Also, after negotiations we managed to obtain 20 million Euro more for Erasmus scholarships. In all, we have 2.3 billion Euro for the Erasmus programme in 2018. Adding to that are 354 million Euros for SMEs, under the COSME programme, which funds SMEs. It’s an extra 15 million Euro that we managed to get during the final negotiations. We also managed to increase the amount earmarked for reducing youth unemployment, from 233 million to 350 million. Also, both the Committee and the Council committed themselves to proposing a budget adjustment next year if all the money is absorbed by the member states and proves insufficient.”
A significant amount of funds have been allotted to security. Romanian MEP Sigfried Muresan is back with details:
Siegfried Muresan: “For our second priority, citizen safety, we have strengthened the EU’s justice and home affairs agencies, as follows: EUROJUST will get 120 million euros next year, of which 90 million euros will go to EASO. We managed to supplement the budget of the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood up to 602 million euros, as compared to 548 million euros last year. Following our request early this year to put the Eastern Neighborhood Policy among the EU’s priorities, the Commission had originally allotted 592 million euros, but during the final negotiations we obtained an additional 10 million euros”.
Also the European Union allotted a 4.9 million-euro budget to its unit charged with countering fake news and propaganda coming from the Russian Federation.
Finally, pre-accession funds allotted to Turkey were slashed to 105 million euros, with a further 70 million euros in commitments put in reserve. With this move the European Union is sending out a strong political message, thus sanctioning Turkey’s disregard for European standards in terms of freedom of speech, the rule of law and human rights.