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As well-informed readers of the ACA Newsletter - Education Europe know, on 8 February 2013, the European Council agreed on the Union’s framework budget (Multi-annual Financial Framework/MFF) for the years 2014-2020, after difficult and long-drawn negotiations. The compromise of the heads of state and government of the 27 member states foresaw spending in the range of EUR 960 billion, and thus 3% less in real terms than in the current 7-year period. This would have been the first ever-decrease in the history of the Union.
The adoption of the MFF requires the approval of both the European Parliament (EP) and the Council. In its meeting on 13 March, the EP rejected the deal by a vast majority (506-161). The EP’s rejection does not so much concern the overall size of the MFF, although it is anything but happy about it, as the lack of flexibility on shifting unused money between individual priorities and budget years. It demands maximum flexibility, rather than sending the money back to the national treasuries, as is now the case. Moreover, it wants to start the new 7-year period with a ‘clean slate’, instead of starting in debt with claims from previous years (between 2012 and 2013 alone, some EUR 16 billion were ‘rolled over’). The EP also wishes for a “compulsory and comprehensive revision” during the seven years, with a view to increasing the overall financial envelope if, and when, the financial crisis recedes, instead of the current ‘mid-terms review’, a rather half-hearted affair. Finally, the members of the EP argued that the fields of education, research and innovation were under-prioritised in the Council’s proposal.
It remains to be seen what will become of the EP’s stance, particularly with regard to education, research and innovation. The European Commission had originally proposed very substantial increases for these areas. The Council’s deal would more or less cut these increases by two. Observers are doubting, however, that the Parliament will be able to raise spending for education and training to the levels initially foreseen by the Commission.
Ireland, which currently holds the revolving Council Presidency, announced it was confident that the MFF could be adopted by May. In the meantime, intense negotiations are under way.European Parliament