Wednesday 28 October 2009

UPDATE: Leaked: The Commission's EU budget review

UPDADTE 12 Nov. 2009: It looks like this story has been burried because the Commission has no guts to stand against the interest of farmers!

After the recent leak of the Presidency proposal for the Stockholm Programme, has now published a leaked draft EU budget review (PDF) by the Commission.

The first and most notable quote is that "the Commission considers that a root and branch reform of the budget is needed". In other words, the EU budget as it stands is completely outdated and needs an extreme reform to stand the demands and necessities of these days.

Then, the document focuses on five priorities the new budget design should focus on:
  • generation of European added value
  • concentration on key priorities
  • greater flexibility and responsiveness
  • simplification and efficiency of delivery
  • fairness and added value in the financing of the budget
I won't go into details of these five different points, especially because they are the same as always when somebody proposes to review a budget.

In fact, the whole document is fairly general, and so let me focus on some conclusions and points that are more concrete and that I find important enough to highlight:
  • cohesion funding needs to be made according to clear conditionality and it also needs to be performance-oriented (p. 12)
  • funding shall become more competitive and focus on cross-border activities (p. 13)
  • the climate and energy change budget should be adapted to the goals set, inter alia by making the cohesion and agriculture spending "climate proof" (p.15)
  • "considerably more funds" for transport infrastructure are needed (p. 16)
  • a "significant reduction" in agricultural spending (p. 17) and a possible co-financing of direct aids by member states (p. 19) are foreseen
  • the neighbourhood policy funding shall be reinforced (p. 20)
  • the EU needs closer co-operation regarding migration and a Migration Management Support Fund should be established (p. 23)
  • on page 24 there are a number of interesting measures to increase flexibility in the budget
  • lighter procedures for smaller funds shall be applied (p. 25)
  • integration of national programmes and EU spending (p. 26) and more national co-funding (p. 27)
  • develop new financing resources for the EU that make it profit from its own successes (p. 29, 2nd para)
So this document is not about the size of the budget, but it is well about the principles that the EU budget programming should follow. Nevertheless, it is clear that the many addition budget issues mentioned will need a clear reduction in the CAP budget - something that is clear to everyone but the agriculture lobby (kindest regards to the milk farmers who waste our taxes and throw away our milk to pressure on our governments).

Altogether, I think the draft text of the document is quite ambitious in many regards but remains quite vague in many other instances too.

It also mixes policy-related points with an obvious political dimension and administrative issues that almost look self-evident. I am not sure whether this is very helpful because if you have seen diplomatic negotiations around such documents, the debates will concentrate on the policy issues and the most obvious administrative issues that could be tackled immediately are left aside and disappear in the jungle of diplomatic speeches and addenda.

And the CAP reduction will be a tough fight, and the Commission has all my support to fight hard!!

But I am not sure whether the Commission will be able to get this thing through (and we haven't even seen the final version of this document yet) and so by now all it is is nice talk that hasn't gone through the hands of the member states who will talk it down as they always do...