MULTIANNUAL FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK : COUNCIL RUBBER-STAMPS MFF.
The Council rubber-stamped, on 2 December, the EU's seven-year budget (2014-2020), the multiannual financial framework (MFF). With its adoption, the institutions concluded an arduous process of two and a half years of negotiations that was replete with drama and bitter accusations between the Council and the European Parliament, MEPs finally endorsed the MFF agreement on 19 November.
For the first time in the Union's history, the MFF ceilings will be lower than those in the previous EU budget. The key figures are 959.99 billion in commitments and 908.40 billion in payments over the next seven years. This is 3.5% and 3.7% less than in the previous long-term budget (2007-2013). The member states, in particular the net contributors, fought tooth and nail for lowering the spending ceilings mirroring the austerity that national governments had been forced to embrace. Those in the other camp consider the EU budget a tool to leverage growth and jobs in Europe's stagnant economy - this is why the Commission and Parliament argued for a stronger MFF.
Parliament gave its approval after securing guarantees that a stronger emphasis will be put on growth, jobs - in particular youth employment - education and innovation. The legislators also succeeded in including a mid-term review of the MFF, which will be conducted at the end of 2016, by which date the economy is expected to recover. An extra 11.2 billion was approved to be added to the Union's 2013 spending to fill funding gaps and to avoid rolling over pending bills to the next budgetary cycle. The legislators increased the flexibility whereby unspent funds can be mobilised between years and headings, although the Council limited the use of this option in payments. The negotiations on creating a high-level group charged with drafting a proposal related to the Union's own resources are still ongoing. The first meeting of this group is expected to take place before the end of December.