By Matthew Barrett
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The leader of the Conservative Party’s MEPs, Richard Ashworth, has strongly condemned the European Commission’s plan to demand £8billion from national governments to plug shortfalls in its budget this year.
The Commission’s shortfall arises because it has started new long-term budget negotiations, causing governments to submit receipts for future years, and thus draining the Commission of funds for current spending commitments, like student exchange programmes. The Commission will also lose funds from the non-repayment of funds for major programmes in Greece and Spain.
Mr Ashworth, who is also the European Conservatives and Reformists group’s spokesman on budgets, led the group to vote in favour of a budgetary freeze for 2013 and a new focus of European money so that jobs and growth programmes are prioritised. Mr Ashworth was able to convince other members of the budget committee to vote to end EU subsidies for tobacco production, and to reduce funding for campaigns to promote the euro by €500,000.
These decisions will now be voted upon by the full European Parliament, followed by negotiations with national governments. Mr Ashworth said:
“Rather than saying how much money is available in the EU budget, the commission waits for governments to submit receipts and then it realises it has a shortfall. EU budgeting seems to be more of an art than a science and it is a totally unacceptable way to manage taxpayer money. Every year, national governments are rightly asking the EU to squeeze more value out of its budget. Unless we have a complete change in the way the EU and some governments think towards this money, we are going to see this state of affairs continue. MEPs have voted for an inflation-busting increase that those who pay the EU’s bills are unable and unwilling to pay. Instead of splurging money at projects in an uncontrolled manner, we need much better discipline to produce a better managed and more efficient European budget. We need a better EU budget, not more EU spending at a time of austerity. We need to end this Oliver Twist mentality and adopt a smarter, more controlled approach that gives bang for every buck.”