As local and regional authorities manage directly some EU programmes under shared management and, at the same time, they are beneficiaries of other programmes or instruments, they are directly interested by the level of both commitment appropriations and payment appropriations. The CoR's opinion on the annual draft EU Budget is therefore of particular importance, with the objective of influencing the final EU budget for 2016.
On 14 November 2015, the Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement on the EU budget for 2016. Meeting in the Conciliation Committee, they agreed to set the total level of commitments at 155 billion EUR and of payments at almost 144 billion EUR. As the budget deal was already approved by both the Council and the European Parliament, the EU Budget for 2016 is adopted.
In response to the migration crisis, the Council and the Parliament agreed on more than 4 billion EUR in commitments to provide emergency assistance to the Member States hardest hit and to non-EU countries hosting refugees, as well as for humanitarian aid. The budget deal also reflects the importance that the Council and the Parliament attach to promoting growth and creating jobs: commitments for the EU research framework programme Horizon 2020 will reach 9.5 billion EUR, which is almost a 32 million EUR increase compared to the draft budget proposed by the Commission.
These achievements are well in line with political recommendations of the CoR opinion on The Draft EU Budget for 2016 (rapporteur Mr Uno Silberg (EE/EA)), adopted at the Plenary Session last October, where:
the CoR stressed the importance of the commitments made in the 2016 draft EU budget and called for them to be further strengthened in response to recent developments that entail new, more cumbersome and onerous tasks, such as the migration crisis and new problematic situations in neighbouring regions;
the CoR welcomed the fact that part of the global margin for commitments and unused margins would be used to finance the EFSI and that cuts in the Horizon 2020 and CEF programmes had been reduced;
the CoR welcomed the fact that the draft budget under heading 1a provides for a 7.8% increase in commitment appropriations compared with 2015, in order to increase competitiveness and create economic growth and jobs.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- emphasises the CoR's readiness to contribute to the debate on the reform of the system of EU own resources: a thorough overhaul of the system is unavoidable, as its current shortcomings are causing gridlocks in budgetary negotiations and are at the very heart of the issue of outstanding payments;
- notes that in times of difficult economic environment and scarce financial resources, emphasis should be put on better spending and performance of the EU budget rather than on absorption and compliance;
- underlines the persistence of a too significant gap between commitment appropriations and the ceiling set by the MFF, in a situation of austerity measures and significant cuts in public and private investment;
- points out that COSME continues to be the EU's only programme specially geared towards SMEs and improving competitiveness, and is concerned about the reduction in commitment appropriations compared with the draft budget for 2015;
- welcomes the fact that part of the global margin for commitments and unused margins will be used to finance the EFSI and that cuts in the Horizon 2020 and CEF programmes have been reduced, in line with the CoR's recommendations;
- expresses concern over the 2.5% reduction in commitment appropriations for the Europe 2020 strategy compared with 2015. Further reductions in commitment appropriations will make it harder to achieve the Europe 2020 targets;
- hopes that the Commission's capacity to make payments improves on the whole, and that the target groups receive the investments they require on time;
- stresses the importance of the commitments made in the 2016 draft EU budget and calls for them to be further strengthened in response to recent developments that entail new, more cumbersome and onerous tasks, such as the migration crisis and new problematic situations in neighbouring regions