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A greener EU budget in the balance: the 2014-2020 MFF deal

AUTHORS: Keti Medarova-Bergstrom – David Baldock – Kaley Hart – Axel Volkery

The unprecedented cuts in the EU’s future spending plans, agreed by Heads of State and Government in early February, have been much in the spotlight. But what are the implications for the policies which shape the longer term sustainability of European society? Many of them have been severely challenged or cut disproportionately. Short term and national budgetary priorities have dominated many of the outcomes. At the same time, some important commitments have been made, for example, to devote 20 per cent of spending under the MFF to climate activities. We should remember however that climate and environmental mainstreaming is not only about dedicated climate and environmental spending but also about ensuring that the remaining 80 per cent of spending is coherent with EU climate and environmental objectives. Some of the most damaging decisions could be revised or tempered in the course of negotiations. In the next few months, however, this will require the European institutions, particularly the European Parliament, to recapture a sense of vision and act decisively.

Key recommendations include:

  • The European Parliament and the European Commission, in their different spheres, should ensure that the future LIFE programme is cushioned from the full impact of the cuts as foreseen; its climate component should remain at least at the level proposed by the Commission.
  • The European Parliament should ensure a mid-term review clause for the MFF, including a revision of spending priorities and allocations in relation to climate and environmental objectives.
  • The different Fund-specific Regulations being agreed in the coming months should embed clear delivery mechanisms and levels of spending so that the overall 20 per cent climate spending commitment and other environmental objectives can be delivered. This requires reversing several of the amendments on the CAP proposed by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and strengthening some of the Cohesion Policy regulations.
  • The European Commission should adopt a common, transparent and clear methodology for defining and tracking climate-related expenditure. This may be a challenge both methodologically and politically but is necessary given the 20 per cent spending commitment.
  • On Cohesion Policy, the European Parliament should support an increase in the sums earmarked for the climate in the ERDF and ensure that the proposed thematic concentration does not include fossil fuel based energy supply and road/air transport infrastructure.
  • On CAP, both the Council and the European Parliament need to recognise that the modified proposals for greening Pillar 1 of the CAP are losing coherence, utility and credibility in the negotiations and need to be rescued if they are to command support in wider society.
  • As national authorities draw up Operational and Rural Development Programmes, the European Commission should ensure that climate and environmental objectives are integrated along the entire policy cycle and translate into specific objectives, priorities, funding allocations, targets and indicators.

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