Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Associated Press
BRUSSELS — The European Union's executive arm is certain to upset several of its 27 member states as it is seeking 11.2 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in additional funding, mainly to pay outstanding bills from last year.
Britain, France, Italy and others will have to find more than a billion euros each at a time when they are trying to trim high deficits through spending cuts or tax raises and their economies are struggling.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said Wednesday that, in addition to its 2013 budget of 133 billion euros ($170 billion), it needs 9 billion euros to meet obligations funding projects in Europe's less developed economic areas. It needs another 2.2 billion euros for other expenses, excluding administrative costs, which are set to stay flat.
The EU's members must approve the budget by qualified majority. They pay a share of the budget according to their economic strength. If the amended budget is passed, Germany will face an additional bill of 2.2 billion euros, France 1.7 billion euros, Britain 1.6 billion euros and Italy 1.3 billion euros.
The financial burden might ultimately be somewhat lower because most of the additional EU funds will pay or co-finance projects in the member states. But the money often goes to local entities there, with the central government on the hook to pay Brussels' budget.
The European Commission and the European Parliament are adamant about the need for the additional financing, insisting it's not about expanding the EU's coffers but about honoring the bloc's payments for previously approved projects.
"You order a meal in a restaurant knowing its price, you eat it, then you complain when the bill arrives?" the EU Budget Commissioner's spokesman, Patrizio Fiorilli, wrote in a post on Twitter.
By law, the EU is not allowed to run a deficit. The initial budget shortfall of 2012 was estimated to total 16 billion euros but shifting funds between budget years brought the figure down to about 11 billion euros, according to the latest estimates. The extra funds would just barely put it back in the black.
The EU Parliament is threatening to hold up the bloc's entire 960 billion euros ($1.3 trillion) budget for the years 2014-2020 unless member states accept to pay the outstanding bills.
"At a time when the EU is suffering from a credibility deficit, no one would take us seriously if we were to decide on the budget for the next seven years without being able to pay the bills for the current year," said Alain Lamassoure, Chairman of the European Parliament's Budget Committee of the center-right majority caucus.
The EU's multi-annual budget was hammered out in a round-the-clock summit of the EU's 27 leaders. It foresees the first spending cuts in the bloc' history. The European Parliament has overwhelmingly rejected the proposal and said it wouldn't start negotiations before last year's bills will be paid for.
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