EU Parliament demands £99billion boost to bloc’s vast budget – talks on the brink

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Negotiators are pressed for time to conclude a final agreement on the €1.8trillion package before the end of the year. The seven-year budget, due to start in 2021, stands at over €1trillion and is bolstered by a €750billion recovery fund for pandemic-stricken regions and industries across the bloc. But European Parliament representatives have said the cash pot should be increased by another €110billion to fund scientific and education programmes.

They also demanded a legally binding commitment on the introduction of new EU-wide taxes to pay for the coronavirus fund.

During the three-way negotiations, European Council officials expressed concern at the requests.

Sources said it was a “big ask” to insist on a legal commitment for the levies when the European Commission is yet to publish proposals on the matter.

One Council official told the Euractiv news website: “You wouldn’t buy a car you haven’t seen.”

Casting doubt on a deal, a second source added: “The room for manoeuvre is very limited on this.”

MEPs were left furious when huge cuts were made to research and innovation funding in order to get a deal on the budget past EU leaders at an acrimonious summit in July.

Ahead of the showdown talks, the Parliament tabled plans for a budget of around €1.3trillion.

But it was dramatically slashed as countries battled to get a deal on the bloc’s recovery fund over the line.

The Parliament’s largest political groups have already threatened to veto the final budget agreement unless cash handouts are tied to respecting the EU’s rulebook.

European People’s Party, Socialists and Democrats, Renew and Green groups sent their warning to Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The groups’ leaders wrote in a letter: “At this point, our political groups feel the need to outline once more that the rule of law regulation will be adopted by co-decision, and that the adoption of the new multiannual financial framework also fully depends on the Parliament’s consent.

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“Without formal conclusion by the Council and the European Parliament of this file, it will be impossible for us to advance on the MFF.

“The time has come to accelerate the fight against the erosion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the very heart of the EU and to underline that electoral victories do not constitute a mandate for heavy-handedness and a departure from European values.”

The letter was a warning shot to populist leaders in Hungary and Poland, who have repeatedly clashed with Brussels for rule of law infringements.

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A punishment mechanism was drawn up by EU leaders during a recent summit to decide on the bloc’s next seven-year budget and a coronavirus recovery fund.

Prime ministers and presidents decided money should be withheld from member states who are deemed to break the rules.

But the policy was significantly watered down after threats by Hungary’s Viktor Orban to veto both of the financial packages.

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