Callanan: EU will miss opportunity to fundamentally reform spending

06-Feb-2013 @ 13:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Speaking this morning in a debate with European Commission President Barroso on tomorrow's EU summit, European Conservatives and Reformists group leader Martin Callanan MEP lamented that any deal reached this week on the EU's budget will pass up the opportunity to fundamentally reform the spending priorities of the EU.

He said that the current EU budget was symptomatic of all the needs to change in the EU. Instead of reprioritising the money available to the challenges of the 21st century, the EU was continuing to fund 20th century policies and asking for more resources for new policies.

Speaking in the debate, the British Conservative MEP said:

"I hope a deal is reached on the MFF this week. But it seems that one thing is now clear: the EU will miss this opportunity to fundamentally reform its spending.

"Unfortunately it now looks like any agreement will be a fudge, a muddle, a botch. A continuation of funding schemes that belong in another century, and the principle that first we set budgets and then we set policies that find ever-more imaginative ways to spend taxpayers' money. 

"Our leaders should have seized the opportunity to sit down and have a serious discussion about where the EU delivers value, where it spends money badly, and where money is blatantly wasted.

"The reality is that today's EU budget would be remarkably familiar to people in the Commissions of Roy Jenkins or Gaston Thorn.

"If we had asked those Presidents where they thought the EU budget would be spent by 2020, would they honestly say that we would still spend around 40 percent on agriculture? I doubt it.

"The debate around the EU budget is symptomatic of all that needs to change in the EU. We need to stop thinking that only a bigger budget will solve our problems. Instead, we need a better budget that prioritises our challenges at the expense of the enormous amount of fat that can very easily be trimmed.

"Many people have said that this is a growth budget and I suppose it is - provided you are a French cow!

"We cannot stand here in Strasbourg at our second seat - this icon of EU profligacy - and say that there is no money that can be saved.

"Yet the issue of the Strasbourg seat was not even raised in the last European Council meeting, and I call on President Schulz to raise it in his speech to EU leaders this Thursday and with his new best friend President Hollande. I know the costs of coming here and maintaining this building are a drop in the ocean of the EU budget, but it would do enormous credit to us all if we show that we can shake off this expensive relic of our past.

"And that's the crux of the problem with the EU's budget. We are continuing to fund policies that may have made sense in the 20th century, as well as trying to spend money on the problems of the 21st century. If instead we just focus the money on the problems of today and tomorrow, we could freeze the budget and still see significantly better results for our taxpayers.

"But what would be worse than just maintaining the status quo in spending?

"I believe it would be to leave the EU's spending unreformed - and then give it new tax raising powers and own resources.

"We have seen in France what happens when politicians think that the best answer to their problems is more state intervention, more government funded programmes, more government administration.

"However, I fear that whatever is agreed will fail to achieve this kind of reform. Instead, we will probably come away with a result that most heads of government feel they can sell, with a freeze in payments.

"That would not be the best outcome but it would be far better than allowing the kinds of increases that this parliament wants to see - without any reform to our spending priorities.

"Now I've heard a lot of vitriol thrown at the Council today - not least by Joseph Daul who seems to forget that its his own Prime Ministers, and even the matriarch of his political family, Chancellor Merkel, who are rightly supporting budgetary restraint.

"This kind of war rhetoric needs to stop. Particularly in a time of crisis we should be working together with national governments, not throwing rocks at them."

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