Ireland’s bid to secure European Parliamentary support for the European Union’s seven-year budget, experienced a serious setback today, as a number of MEP’s expressed their dissatisfaction with the package agreed last night.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the European Parliament’s chief negotiator Alain Lamassoure agreed on a joint text on the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) in Brussels yesterday evening, but MEPs from across the political spectrum have now indicated their dissatisfaction with the terms of the deal, with German MEP Reimer Boge resigning his position as negotiator for the European People’s Party (EPP) 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, adding that the European Parliament’s negotiating team had decided not to continue the negotiations last night.
But speaking on RTÉ this 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 under the Lisbon Treaty, the budget must also secure the support of the European Parliament.
The package that was agreed by the two main negotiators Mr Gilmore and Mr Lamassoure must gain the support of member states at next week’s General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg as well as MEPs at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg early next month.
Gaining support from the two main political groupings in the Parliament - the European People’s Party (EPP) and Social and Democratic (S&D) parties - will be key.
Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats group, the second largest group in the parliament, also criticised the agreement today. “It is clear that there is no agreement from the European Parliament at this time,” he said.
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, noting that “EU budget negotiations have been jeopardised by the Tánaiste’s haste to prematurely claim victory in the process.”
Deputy Martin 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 holding back economies and impacting quality of life across the European Union”.
Agreement on the MFF is needed to unlock funding across the European Union, in a range of 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 successful conclusion of the talks, with negotiators agreeing to fast-track the disbursal of the fund.
Ministers Richard Bruton and Joan Burton co-chaired a council meeting in Luxembourg today at which member states agreed to present plans for how the Youth Guarantee will be implemented in individual countries by the end of the year.
Separately, the Irish presidency secured agreement this evening on the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, an EU initiative which provides support for workers that have been made redundant as a result of globalisation.
The fund was previously open to Dell workers, following the closure of the company’s plant in Limerick in 2009. The new agreement broadens the remit of the fund to include the youth unemployed as well as redundant workers.
“Given the long period of discussion and the range of views being expressed on elements of the proposal since late 2011, Ireland is pleased to have reached agreement at council level during its presidency,” Mr Bruton said this evening in Luxembourg.