Deal struck on EU budget amid mounting unpaid bills

9 Dec 14

A provisional 2015/16 budget for the European Union has been agreed that will focus on paying down the €23.4bn worth of unpaid bills across the economic bloc.

The agreement between European Parliament and European Council negotiators will also increase spending on the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and development programme by €45m, and provide additional revenue to its student exchange programme, Erasmus+.

Announcing the deal, the parliament’s budget committee chair, French MEP Jean Arthuis, said action to pay down rising debts had been MEPs’ ‘quintessential goal’ in the negotiations.

The backlog of unpaid bills has grown from €5bn in 2010 to €23.4bn this year, he said, and without the €4.8bn in additional payments agreed in the negotiations, the budget could collapse. As part of the funding settlement, the European Commission has been asked to develop a plan to reduce the unpaid bill total to a sustainable level by 2016.

‘We cannot go on rolling invoices over from year to year due to a lack of resources, just watching as cash-strapped contractors suffer and the EU loses its credibility as a reliable partner,’ Arthuis added.
‘We know member states’ difficulties, but it was the member states themselves that agreed to enter into contracts that need to be paid. The bills of the EU are also part of their debt.’

As well as the additional funding for Horizon 2020 and €16m more for Erasmus+, the EU’s foreign policy budget has been increased by €32m.

Final approval for the budget, which includes €145.3bn in total spending commitments, must now be given by both the parliament and the council, which represents the union’s 28 member states.

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