Irish role in EU budget accord criticised

Tánaiste and chief negotiator agree text on Multi-annual Financial Framework

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore greets MEPs Reimer Boge and Jean-Luc Dehaene, members of the European Parliament negotiating team.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore greets MEPs Reimer Boge and Jean-Luc Dehaene, members of the European Parliament negotiating team.


Ireland’s bid to secure European Parliamentary support for the European Union’s seven-year budget experienced a setback yesterday, as a number of MEPs expressed dissatisfaction with the package agreed on Wednesday night.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the European Parliament’s chief negotiator Alain Lamassoure agreed on a joint text on the Multi-annual Financial Framework in Brussels on Wednesday, but yesterday MEPs from across the spectrum indicated dissatisfaction, with German MEP Reimer Böge resigning as negotiator for the European People’s Party in protest.

“The statement by the Irish council presidency of an alleged agreement on the financial framework is nothing more than a manipulation,” the centre-right MEP said.

Gilmore’s defence
But speaking on RTÉ yesterday evening, the Tánaiste defended the presidency’s handling of the affair. “What has happened here is the European Union budget, which was agreed by the heads of state in February, was turned down by the European Parliament in March . . . What I’ve been doing in the intervening period of time is trying to establish from the European Parliament what changes they need to have made in order for it to be approved by the parliament.”

Member states agreed the terms of the EU’s €960 billion budget which will govern income and expenditure between 2014 and 2020, in February. But, since the Lisbon Treaty, the budget must also secure the support of the European Parliament.

The package agreed by main negotiators Mr Gilmore and Mr Lamassoure must gain the support of member states at next week’s General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg, and of MEPs at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg next month. Gaining support from the two main political groupings – the European People’s Party and Social and Democratic Party – will be key.

Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialists and Democrats group also criticised the agreement yesterday. “It is clear that there is no agreement from the European Parliament at this time,” he said.

‘Marked reluctance’
Irish MEP Marian Harkin said there had been a “marked reluctance by the Irish presidency to accept the full co-decision powers of the parliament”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin expressed concern at developments, noting that “EU budget negotiations have been jeopardised by the Tánaiste’s haste to prematurely claim victory”.

He said: “I am already on the record having been critical of the draft EU budget on the basis that it does not do enough to provide a stimulus or tackle the crisis . . .”

Agreement on the MFF is needed to unlock funding across the EU, in fields including the Common Agricultural Policy, the Erasmus programme and structural funds. The disbursal of €6 billion in EU funds earmarked for youth employment initiatives is also dependant on the talks, with negotiators agreeing to fast-track the fund.

Globalisation fund
Separately, the Irish presidency yesterday secured agreement among EU ministers on the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, an EU initiative which provides support for workers made redundant as a result of globalisation.

The fund was open to Dell workers, following closure of the plant in Limerick in 2009. The agreement broadens the remit to include the youth unemployed.