European Commission's budgetary proposal lacks political ambition

The proposal for the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 put forward by the Commission does not go far enough and lacks political ambition  this was one of the main conclusions of a conference on the subject hosted by the EESC. A swift agreement on an adequate and properly reformed long-term budget would be desirable.

The participants in the EESC conference acknowledged the constraints on the next MFF and welcomed numerous positive aspects of the Commission's proposal, but they also voiced their dismay at the growing gap between citizens' concerns and expectations and the limited institutional power and financial resources currently allocated to the EU. The gap could not be properly addressed by the Commission's proposal, hence the need to revise it.

Stefano Palmieri, president of the EESC's ECO Section, urged EU leaders, in line with the European Parliament, to increase the current ceiling for EU expenditure to 1.3% of GNI.

Not just the size but also the structure, distribution and toolbox of the proposed budget were up for debate. There were various different positions on this.

Although speakers generally welcomed the addition of new political priorities, they asked for an in-depth assessment of new policy instruments in terms of suitability and effectiveness.

New priorities should not harm the provision of financial resources to long-standing ones, namely cohesion policy and the common agricultural policy, irrespective of the fact that these policies should be properly reformed.

Greater conditionality for access to EU funding was endorsed and new instruments for a stable EMU were welcomed. Nevertheless, participants questioned the ambition and effectiveness of the proposed tools and asked for more details.

Finally, speakers agreed that it was of the utmost importance to reach an agreement on the MFF before the informal European Council in Sibiu and the parliamentary elections in 2019.

The conclusions of the conference will feed into an EESC opinion which is due to be discussed at the EESC plenary in September 2018. (jk)