Ahead of the informal meeting of the EU’s 27 heads of state or government on February 23, 2018, the European Commission is setting out various options – and their financial consequences – for a new and modern, long-term EU budget that delivers on its priorities after 2020.
Also, the European Commission is presenting a number of practical steps that could make the European Union’s work more efficient, and improve the connection between the leaders of the EU institutions and the citizens of Europe.
With regards to the EU’s long-term budget, the European Commission seeks EU states to live up to the level of ambition of EU action in areas like protecting the EU’s external borders, supporting a true European Defence Union, boosting Europe’s digital transformation or making the EU’s cohesion and agricultural policies more efficient.
Commissioner in charge of Budget and Human Resources, Günther H. Oettinger said: “We must not repeat the unfortunate experience of 2013 when the current EU budget was agreed with considerable delay. If such a delay were to happen again, more than 100,000 EU-funded projects – in key areas like business support, energy efficiency, health care, education and social inclusion – would not be able to start on time, and hundreds of thousands of young people would not be able to benefit from an Erasmus+ exchange in 2021.”
However, the challenge of the forthcoming meeting, in a nutshell, is following: Brussels demands next budget inputs from member states that will cover a predicted gap after Britain will leave a Union in 2019. Guenther Oettinger says the EU’s next budget, which will span between 2021 and 2027, should be increased from one percent of EU gross national income to between 1.1 and 1.2 percent.
Nevertheless, the size of the next budget is ultimately up to EU member states which means Mr. Oettinger could not offer an exact figure. The Commission offered several options for EU leaders to discuss later this month before the EU executive presents a final proposal on May 2. And the Commission wants an agreement from EU governments on the budget by May 2019 – two months after Brexit.
The budget constraints, that EU faces, sets the Union’s limits in exercising its global geopolitical influence. Thus, to deliver any truly ambitious objective, the EU Commission is bound to apply consistent action with its 27 member states.
On the institutional side, the Commission’s contribution sets out the different institutional options for improving the organization of European elections and deepening the connection between the leaders of the EU institutions and the citizens of Europe.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I have always said that form should follow function – this is not the time for long discussions about institutional reform or Treaty change. There are, however, a number of steps we can take to make the work of the European Union even more efficient in delivering on the key priorities that matter for Europeans. There are many options but the goal must be one and the same: creating a Europe that delivers.”
In terms of elections to European Parliament, the European Commission proposed for political parties to make an earlier choice of the lead candidates, before the end of 2018, and for an earlier start to the campaign. The Commission is also recommending the link between national parties and European parties be made more visible.
Also, leaders in the European Council have to decide – on the basis of a proposal from the European Parliament – on the composition of the European Parliament for the 2019-2024 term and what to do with the seats left vacant by the UK.
Moreover, before the next European Commission is appointed, leaders will have to decide whether to maintain the principle of one member from each member state or to make the Commission smaller.
Furthermore, a single person holding the two offices of President of the European Council and President of the European Commission could make the structure of the Union more efficient.
In addition, the Commission will increase the frequency of Citizens’ Dialogues with Members of the Commission, the European Parliament, national governments, local and regional authorities and civil society representatives between now and the European elections in May 2019.
Text: Olexander Kulbitsky