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In mid-November, negotiations on the final shape of the EU budget for 2011 stalled. At issue was a disagreement between Member States and the European Parliament (EP) about a procedure to involve the EP in discussions on the EU financing system. Though challenged only by a minority of Member States (11), the objections were sufficient to block the possibility of any further “constructive discussions” on the EU budget at this time.
In accordance with Lisbon Treaty, the next move was placed in the hands of the European Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, Janusz Lewandowski, who was called to draft a new budget proposal as soon as possible. This new draft was completed on 26 November. The Council is now allowed a maximum of one month to react to the new draft, followed by a period of up to 42 days for the EP to consider the new proposal and the Council’s position. If this process fails to yield agreement, a new cycle of “conciliation” talks between the Council and Parliament can take place. The EU budget is now on the agenda for the European Council summit on 16-17 December. If a new budget is not approved by 31 December 2010, the “provisional twelfth” system kicks in. This system calls for the division of the amounts corresponding to each chapter of the 2010 budget into 12 equal parts, which would then be distributed monthly beginning in January 2011. This system would be in effect until a new 2011 budget could be finalised.
Although far from an ideal situation, the implications for EU-funded programmes within the field of higher education do not look to be profoundly negative as a result of these developments—at least at this stage—as most of the payments for these projects are scheduled for later in the year. Still, getting a speedy resolution to this impasse is clearly in everyone’s interest and the quick submission of the new draft proposal is an encouraging sign of progress.
European Parliament (16 November press release)