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Yes to aid for Tsunami-hit countries and Slovakia but no agreement yet on 2006 budget

The European Parliament and Council, on Friday 15 July, agreed concrete solutions to finance the reconstruction needs for Tsunami affected countries and assist Slovakia in the wake of floods in the Tatras. (See News Report of 14 July) This was the main achievement of the conciliation meeting; however, Council and Parliament failed make substantial progress in the preparation of the 2006 EU budget.

Although Parliament and Council struck an agreement on €157m to finance reconstruction needs for the current year for Tsunami affected countries and Slovakia, a remaining €13m still needs to be found to reach the total pledged by the European Union initially foreseen for 2005. This amount includes €70m of emergency aid proposed by the European Parliament, in order to facilitate early assistance during the summer break.

The Chairman of the European Parliament committee on Budgets, Janusz LEWANDOWSKI (EPP-EP, PL), expressed his deep concern that Council could raise difficulties in finding fresh resources for the remaining €13m.

Chair Lewandowski also pointed out the difference between "Council's readiness to make commitments on the world stage" and "its willingness to find money to fulfil these commitments". The European Parliament delegation present at the Conciliation deplored the "huge delay" in making this decision.

On the 2006 EU budget, no agreement could be found at the conciliation, except on "modulation", which sees a shift of €655m from agricultural direct payments to rural development.

Again, the parliamentary delegation led by Mr Lewandowski was unhappy that the UK Presidency had made statements in favour of a budget geared to innovation and research and yet supported cuts in the budget lines related to these items which are regarded as central for growth and employment in Council's first reading.

Chair Lewandowski underlined the contradictions between the political statements made repeatedly by the Council on political priorities such as the Lisbon Strategy or the Millennium Development Goals and how these goals were not sufficiently reflected at the budgetary level.

The EP delegation expressed its disappointment at the state of recruitment of staff from the new Member States in 2004 and 2005. The EP delegation was also unhappy with the Council's decision to significantly reduce appropriations for administrative expenditure of the institutions as well as the number of posts for 2006.

15.07.2005 Committee on Budgets

In the chair: Janusz LEWANDOWSKI (EPP-ED, PL)

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