The 2013 EU budget has been agreed after MEPs signed off on a deal worth €132.8 billion in Strasbourg on Wednesday (12 December).
The agreement breaks months of deadlock between MEPs, the commission and national governments.
It increases EU spending next year by just €3.8 billion, over €5 billion less than the sums demanded by MEPs and the EU executive.
It also includes a controversial deal providing just €6.1 billion of emergency funding to the European Commission to cover outstanding bills from 2012.
In October, the commission tabled an emergency budget worth €9 billion, with the EU’s student exchange Erasmus programme and the European Social Fund among items facing a cash-flow crisis.
However, with member states refusing to stump up the extra cash in full, the EU executive will now roll over 2012 payments worth roughly €2.5 billion into 2013.
Speaking in Strasbourg, Alain Lamassoure, the centre-right chair of the assembly’s budget committee, complained that by rolling over payments the deal “respects the treaty but betrays its spirit.”
Green budgetary spokesperson Helga Trupel said the agreement would “lead to a budget hole of at least €9 billion at the end of next year.”
For his part, Italian conservative Giovanni La Via, who drafted the parliament’s position on the budget, said that the funds would “guarantee investment in growth and job-creation.”
Following the vote, the EU’s budget commissioner warned that a repeat cash-shortfall would probably occur in 2013.
“The approved budget will in all likelihood not be sufficient to pay the incoming bills … the pressure on the 2013 EU budget will be tremendous. There is a serious risk that we will run out of funds early in the course of next year,” warned Janusz Lewandowski.
He added that “by systematically cutting the commission’s estimates, the Council transforms the EU annual budget in a budget for nine to 10 months; last year we ran out of cash to pay all the claims in November, this year was in October and next year I expect this to happen even earlier.”
The budget includes a 6.4 percent increase for EU research and development funding, alongside a 6.3 percent rise for the trans-European transport network.
The foreign aid budget also rises by 1.9 percent to cover extra funds to support Palestine. The EU’s three main institutions will see a real terms cut.