The European Parliament on May 30 openly challenged the European Commission’s figures for the next multi-annual financial framework. MEPs’ calculations show that agricultural funds would be reduced by 15%, and regional development ones by 10%.

In a press release issued on May 30, MEPs said they want adequate EU funding to meet new challenges like security and migration and deliver on existing policy aims such as regional development and Erasmus+.

A non-legislative resolution on the EU Commission’s May 2 legislative proposals for the 2021-2027 multi-annual financial framework (MFF) and “own resources” reform was passed on May 30 by 409 votes to 213, with 61 abstentions.

MEPs warned the Commission’s comparative data do not show the full extent of the proposed EU funding reductions for Europe’s regions and farming communities.

According to the European Parliament’s own calculations, these would lose as much as 15% respectively, rather than “around 5%” as calculated by the Commission. They reiterate their position that funding for the common agricultural and cohesion policies must be maintained at least at current levels.

Similarly, the Commission’s proposed increases for key programmes such as research or Erasmus+ are significantly smaller than announced, said the MEPs who asked for the Erasmus+ programme budget to be tripled. Specific funding for SMEs and tackling youth unemployment should also be doubled and the research and innovation budget should increase by at least 50%, according to MEPs “in order to enable [key EU policies] to fulfil their mission and objectives”.

Commenting on the resolution, Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, stressed that Europe needs a “clear vision, geared towards providing effective answers for its citizens”.

“The Commission’s proposal, as underlined by the resolution, is disappointing with regards to two key policies: agriculture and cohesion policy,” he said. “The EU executive’s proposal does not allocate adequate resources for modern and competitive agriculture and fisheries, capable of attracting young people. Funds to reach territorial and social cohesion objectives are also insufficient. These are fundamental for a Union underpinned by solidarity that leaves no one behind, helping the real economy and reducing youth unemployment. This parliament requests that we maintain at least the current level of spending in these areas.”

From the side of the European People’s Party (EPP), their spokesman in the Budgets Committee, José Manuel Fernandes, warned the Commission’s proposal weakens the main EU solidarity policies.

“Nobody can explain a 45% cut in the Cohesion Fund for the poorest member states,” he said. “Nobody can explain a 25% cut in the Rural Development Fund. We want a cohesive, supportive, competitive and secure EU. What kind of EU does the Council want? The Member States must speak up.”

According to the EPP, the EU must have necessary financial means to meet important challenges and attain its political priorities and objectives over the next MFF.

“The next EU long-term budget must reflect a clear and positive vision of the Union’s future and respond to the needs, concerns and expectations of EU citizens,” added Fernandes. “We are ready to negotiate with the Council with the aim of building a more ambitious MFF for the benefit of our citizens.”

As for the Socialists & Democrats (S&D), their post-2020 MFF negotiator, Isabelle Thomas, expressed disappointment. “It lacks courage and a long-term vision,” she said. “The cuts are much bigger than they initially informed us and the increase of investment in some programs is smaller than what they had promised.”

Thomas also warned the Commission’s narrative draws “a fake and embellished reality” of a low MFF with 1.08% of EU-27 GNI compared to the current 1.13% EU-27 GNI. Drastic cuts on the Common Agriculture Policy (-15%), on Cohesion policy (-10%), including -6% for the European Social Fund. All this makes this MFF inadequate and unfit to cope with current and future needs.

“Should we think that the European Commission is making-up the budget and play a shell game with our future? We cannot accept this,” said Thomas.

In turn, Eider Gardiazábal Rubial, S&D Group spokesperson for the EU budget, noted that the proposal is not clear with the goals of the MFF package. “What is even worse, it is not clear how we are going to meet the challenges we are going to face,” said Thomas. “The truth is that this proposal just aims to make the Brexit numbers add up, putting security as a new priority, whilst at the same time cutting funds for social policies.”

Backing the European Parliament resolution, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) said this is a serious basis for negotiation.

Gérard Deprez (Belgium, MR), ALDE spokesperson and member of the Parliamentary Budget Committee (BUDG), said: “All members of my group are determined to find the right path for the future of the Union. It is not the Europe of yesterday that must be maintained, it is the Europe of tomorrow that must be built. It is in this spirit that we strongly support the doubling or tripling of funding for an Erasmus programme extended to apprentices, the doubling of support programmes for SMEs, an increase of more than 50% of appropriations to research and innovation and an unprecedented increase in funding for the management of our external borders – a common border to be managed together.”

The view from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is also one of concern. The group’s agriculture co-ordinator Jim Nicholson said: “A large net contributor like the UK does not leave the EU without it having affects but I believe very strongly that farmers should not be made to pay the price. EU farmers proudly produce food to the highest standards globally and they must be able to continue to do so in the future.”

Nicholson said the next CAP needs to give farmers the necessary tools to keep them competitive in the international market.

“While we have some concerns, we welcome the emphasis on a simpler and more transparent system of payments to farmers, targeted payments and more powers for member states to design their own strategies for implementing the CAP more effectively.”