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EU budget cuts inevitable, says Council of Ministers

The European Council of Ministers has said it is “inevitable” that the level of the overall EU budget for 2014 to 2020 will be reduced from the €1 trillion proposed by the Commission.

In a statement, the council said that all elements of the budget—including the €80 billion currently allocated to the Horizon 2020 research programme—will be reduced.

A special meeting of ministers will also be held in November to focus solely on discussions of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), in preparation for a political agreement on the total level of expenditure by the end of 2012.

The announcements came at an informal meeting of member states’ European ministers held in Nicosia, Cyprus yesterday. Representatives from the European Commission and Parliament were also present at the meeting, which discussed bilateral consultations that took place with member states in July on the budget.

A paper summarising the consultation results, produced by the Cyprus Presidency, said that member states had generally agreed on the need for the future MFF to contribute to growth, investment and jobs, the simplification of funding instruments and maintaining sufficient flexibility to respond to unforeseen events.

However, the total level of the budget remains a controversial issue, with several member states requesting a substantial reduction from the Commission’s proposal of €1,025 billion. The Presidency also reports divergent views on the composition of the MFF and which areas should be most affected in the events that cuts are made.

“The Presidency recognizes that it is, therefore, inevitable that the total level of expenditure proposed by the Commission, including all elements inside and outside of the MFF, will have to be adjusted downwards,” said the paper.

That would infer reductions to all parts of the budget, including the section containing the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, despite recognition that this area has a “high potential to contribute to the fulfillment of the Europe 2020 Strategy.”

Negotiations on the proportion of funding to be allocated to each area will proceed in parallel to the overall budget discussion, said the Presidency. Its goal is to reach an agreement on the total budget by the end of 2012, leaving 2013 to finalise individual allocations.