EU parliament, member states strike deal on 2016 budget

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EU governments and the European Parliament reached an agreement early Saturday on their bloc’s 2016 budget, paving the way for 143.9 billion euros (155 billion dollars) in spending.

“The budget agreed today is a concrete expression of solidarity both within the EU and with third countries,” Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna, whose country currently holds the bloc’s presidency, said in a statement.

“It provides the EU with the financial means to boost growth, create jobs and tackle the migration crisis,” he added. “And it keeps sufficient financial leeway to allow the EU to react to unforeseen needs and events.”

The legislature and the 28 EU member states spar every year over the budget, with the governments typically seeking to rein in expenditures while parliamentarians usually advocate for more generous spending.

This year’s deal materialized fairly quickly, well before a November 18 deadline after which the European Commission would have had to prepare a new budget proposal.

The deal will now have to be formally endorsed by EU governments and the parliament, but this is expected to be a formality.

EU budgets are funded mainly by contributions from the member states. Most of the money flows back into those countries, for everything from agricultural subsidies and support for poorer regions to research and education programmes.

The commission, the EU’s executive, had proposed that the bloc spend 143.5 billion euros in 2016 – an increase of 1.6 per cent from the budget approved for this year.

The EU governments, however, wanted spending capped at 142.1 billion euros, representing an increase of only 0.6 per cent. Many of them face financial constraints back home.

Parliament, for its part, had pushed for a budget of 146.5 billion euros or an increase of 3.7 per cent, saying that more funds were needed to tackle Europe’s migration crisis, create jobs for young people and settle unpaid bills.

The two sides also argued about staffing cuts, whether to incorporate margins in the budget for unforeseen events and what to do with higher-than-expected EU income, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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