Today's approval by the European Parliament of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 is an extremely important vote. Thanks to the European Parliament's approval today EU funds can flow, on time, starting from 1 January 2014.
It means much needed EU funds can be invested into programmes ranging from combatting youth unemployment, support for less-well off regions in the EU via the structural funds, to much needed funding in research and development and support for agriculture.
However, the amounts available from the MFF are far from perfect. The European Parliament would have preferred a much more ambitious MFF targeted more towards the key challenges facing the EU today. A more ambitious MFF would have seen higher amounts available in the EU budgets and would have boost ed a job-rich recovery.
Nevertheless, the European Parliament has secured important improvements from the 8 February 2013 unsatisfactory proposal from Heads of State and government.
MEPs have secured greater flexibility in the MFF. Flexibility is needed to ensure that all EU budget euros can be used where they are most needed. For example, this new flexibility should allow the EU to increase funding of priorities such as boosting investment for job creation and allocating more money for the Youth Guarantee to combat youth unemployment in future years of the MFF period.
Our negotiators have also secured an important revision clause in the MFF which will give the next Parliament and Commission a say on how to change the MFF. Otherwise the new European Parliament and Commission would have been forced to stick with it until the end of their terms.
Finally, on the revenue side or "own resources", the European Parliament has insisted that work is stepped up and a High Level Group will report back by the end of 2014 with new proposals which ultimately could lead to a reduction in Member State contributions to the EU Budget.
There is a growing gap between what Member States ask the EU to do and the financial means with which the Union is provided to fulfil them, be it tackling youth unemployment, investing in research and development or developing modern infrastructure in the Member States. This may well prove to be the last budget framework negotiated in such a protracted and unsatisfactory manner. Only with fresh ideas on how to finance the EU budget can the EU hope to meet the challenges it faces.