The European Parliament has voted by a massive majority to seek radical changes to the spending priorities in the draft budget proposed by EU leaders at their summit in February.

 
20121206 MEP portrait 015In the resolution, approved by 506 votes in favour to 161 against, with 23 abstentions, MEPs voted for Parliament to join three-way talks with the EU Commission and Council of Ministers on a revised financial framework but not to increase the budget total.
 
The mandate for Parliament's negotiators includes a number of key demands which the Lib Dem ALDE group has pressed for to make EU spending more flexible and focussed on jobs and growth. 
 
Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion, who supported the resolution, said: "At a time when people all over Europe have to tighten their belts an overall reduction is necessary, but the priority must be to create jobs and strengthen our economy, investing in innovation and infrastructure.
 
“Right across the political spectrum, there is huge opposition to the crude way the heads of government produced their proposal. They specified huge cuts falling disproportionately on useful budgets such as innovation and research. 
 
"If they had their way the EU would have to slash budgets to support vital research into anti-biotic resistance for instance – highlighted by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer as recently as Monday - but would still allow EU administration costs to rise. 
 
"We need to make economies, but as it stands the cuts would mostly affect some of the most useful things the EU can do. For instance, we should protect the proposed Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a 'financial instrument' to help new transport networks such as high speed rail, or information networks like superfast rural broadband.
 
"Overall the CEF was facing a cut of around 40 per cent. The amount planned for superfast rural broadband was cut by 90% from ten billion to just one billion euros, across the whole of the EU, which is just not serious.
 
"These new smaller budgets would lever large amounts of private investment and would be highly effective in kick-starting growth.
 
"We should instead look for slightly greater savings in other budgets such as cohesion, much larger in relative terms. It is not acceptable that the budget for EU administration is still due to go up.
 
"We need to bite the bullet and abolish the Strasbourg seat of Parliament. Holding all of our meetings in one location in Brussels could save taxpayers £180 million a year."
 
“ALDE are also right to insist on more flexibility between different budget lines and carry-over between years so underspent budgets can be redirected quickly where money is needed.”
 
The European Parliament will now enter into negotiations with Member States with a view to agreeing the final Multi-Annual Financial Framework under the Irish Presidency by June.
 
ENDS