EU budget negotiations are always strongly characterised by populist grandstanding. The current round of haggling over the €1trillion, seven year budget framework is no different. The European budget is, in all its parts, an expression of our common European interest and comprises barely 1% of our combined GDP. We should first and foremost define what is necessary to be done in the interest of all our citizens, instead of constantly advocating deeper cuts to please a largely populist domestic press. 94% of the financial contributions that the member states transfer to 'Brussels' is returned through the various common policies or spent for development aid, and administrative costs make up only 6%. The idea that taxpayers money is swallowed up by an all-consuming Brussels bureaucracy is a myth.
The multi-annual financial framework is not just a budget, but rather a political act, an expression of Europe's ambitions by which we commit to financing common policies and projects that are of mutual benefit. This is more, not less, relevant in times of hardship and economic crisis.
We work together for a common future but, as co-legislators, we are not complacent on the need for reform. The long-term EU budget must provide added value in terms of growth-boosting investment. It must also allow for flexibility, so that the EU can better react and channel funds to where they are most needed - in particular the investments in infrastructure, innovation and skills that represent the foundations for future sustainable growth.
Moreover the Union budget should return to a genuine system of autonomous revenue (own resources) which would obviate the need for the current complex system of rebates and squabbling over size of national contributions.
Member States this week must demonstrate vision and responsibility for the EU over the next seven years and not cling to a blinkered strategy based on budget nationalism. We must work together to re-launch Europe around solidarity and competitiveness and not fall into the trap of selfish, nationalist positions, that will leave us all weaker and less relevant in an increasingly competitive world.
Presidents of the four largest groups in the European Parliament:
Joseph Daul, European People's Party
Hannes Swoboda, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Guy Verhofstadt, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Greens/EFA