Ireland breaks deadlock on €960bn EU budget after crunch Brussels talks
NEGOTIATIONS on a near trillion euro EU-wide budget for the next seven years are expected to be completed by the end of the Irish presidency next month – despite the European Parliament rejecting an earlier version, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.
Mr Gilmore, lead negotiator, said a formal meeting to discuss issues surrounding the so-called Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014 to 2020 will take place next week with the European Parliament and subsequently with finance ministers.
It followed crunch talks in Brussels last night between Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Gilmore, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schultz.
Officials hoped to reach an accord with the European Parliament on the crucial piece of legislation unlocking billions of euro in funds to EU states before the end of June, when Ireland's term as holder of the EU presidency ends.
In February, European leaders finally agreed a budget deal for the rest of the decade after a marathon 25-and-a-half hour negotiation session in Brussels, which was expected to lead to the first cut in EU spending in its 56-year history.
But the parliament, which must vote on the near trillion euro package, rejected it in March amid various concerns.
Mr Gilmore said the Irish played an active role in putting forward proposals to break the deadlock and start formal talks with the Parliament.
"It's a very large sum of money. €960bn up to 2020," Mr Gilmore said.
"There's a lot of people in Europe who are awaiting the outcome of that budget to support infrastructure programmes in their own country, research and innovation that is so needed to make Europe competitive, the com agricultural policy, all of the social programmes in Europe including the budget for youth unemployment.
" All of these are dependent on agreement being reached on the European budget."
European Council president Herman Van Rompuy clinched the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) for a near one trillion euro budget after proposing a €34.4 billion cut over the next seven years.
The European parliament did not challenge the overall spending limit agreed by governments, but did insist on a legal review of the budget deal after EU elections in 2014, which could reverse the cuts if Europe's economy improved.
Members also called for "maximum flexibility" in shifting unspent funds from one priority to another, and from one year to the next.
MEPs also have concerns about the shortfalls in the 2013 budget and said they would not open negotiations on the MFF unless the commission put forward an amended budget for 2013.
He said agreement on the MFF would be a significant boost of confidence in the EU institutions.