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EU executive wants spending on growth to surpass agriculture in 2008 budget

EU executive wants spending on growth to surpass agriculture in 2008 budget

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a 2008 EU budget that envisages spending more on growth and employment than on agriculture for the first time.
Total payments are set to increase by 5.3 percent from 2007 levels to euro121.6 billion (US$165.44 billion), or 0.97 percent of the 27-nation bloc's Gross National Income.
Slightly more funds _ 44.2 percent of the package _ are earmarked to boost economic growth and employment, edging ahead of 43.6 percent for agriculture subsidies, traditionally a key part of the EU budget that is set for years ahead.
"For the first time, spending related directly to growth and jobs takes the biggest share of the EU budget. More funds are now available for policies geared towards economic progress," said EU Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite, adding that the shift reflected efforts to modernize the budget.
France, the top recipient of EU farm subsidies, has been hesitant to consider cuts to agriculture payments until after 2013. Grybauskaite said she hoped that whoever wins France's presidential election this weekend _ conservative front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy or Socialist Segolene Royal _ will be more forthcoming on the issue.
More money will be set apart to deal with an increasing number of immigrants reaching Europe and to help Kosovo.
Administrative expenses will, however, also rise, with more money set apart for pensions of EU civil servants and the running of schools for their children.
The EU member nations will start debating the draft budget with the European Parliament in June, and the package is expected to be adopted in December. The EU executive is limited by an annual ceiling agreed to by the EU member states as part of an overall 2007-2013 long-term financial package.
A large part of the EU budget is spent on handouts to farmers, which will not change until at least 2009, when the long-term budget will be reviewed by member states.
Grybauskaite called for a fundamental review that would include a close look at the structure of the EU's incomes and expenditures _ an exercise that will, among others, examine the British rebate, secured to compensate Britain for the lower amount of money it receives in farming subsidies and regional aid, and the massive agricultural subsidies, which mainly benefit France.
She said that the EU must first define its future spending priorities to ensure the needs of a changing Europe are met before plunging into wrangling over money.
There are efforts "to avoid a political discussion and go straight to the money," she said, without identifying the countries that want to bypass the debate on priorities.
The EU executive will present its proposal on how to change the structure of the EU budget in early 2008, Grybauskaite said.


Updated : 2021-02-25 18:31 GMT+08:00