On 19 October 2015, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council signalled a note of caution and realism ahead of the conciliation talks with the European Parliament on the EU budget for 2016.
"We all agree that we are facing major political challenges which require us to take exceptional measures and to mobilise extraordinary financial support. But we cannot continue simply to increase the EU budget without any limits. We have to address the current situation whilst fully respecting the constraints on our finances, and in the light of clearly justified priorities", said Pierre Gramegna, minister for finance of Luxembourg and President of the Council at a trilogue-meeting with representatives of the European Parliament and the Commission.
In its position adopted by unanimity on 4 September 2015 the Council set the level of commitments at €153.27 billion and of payments at €142.12 billion. If the Parliament on 28 October confirms the amendments suggested by its committee on budgets these figures would be increased by €4.16 billion in commitments and €4.34 billion in payments. This would far exceed the expenditure ceilings also accepted by the Parliament in the EU's multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020.
Responding to the refugee crisis
Both the Council and the Parliament attach a high priority to measures to address the migration crisis. But care needs to be taken to ensure that EU resources are in line with what can realistically be absorbed. By adopting draft amending budgets no 5 and 7 the Council and the Parliament have already mobilised a total of €490.3 million in commitments and €133.6 million in payments from the 2015 EU budget to provide humanitarian aid and help those member states hardest hit, as well as non-EU countries hosting refugees. They are currently examining amending letter no 2 for 2016 aimed at increasing support for the most vulnerable member states, the relocation of refugees and the migration and border funds by €1.55 billion in commitments and €1.42 million in payments from the 2016 budget.
Leading by example
For the 2016 EU budget the Council also attaches high importance to the need for all EU institutions to respect their commitments and reduce their staff numbers by 5% between 2013-2017. The Council notes with concern that not all the institutions are acting in a way which is in line with the inter-institutional agreement on budgetary discipline signed in December 2013.
The Parliament is expected to vote on 28 October on its amendments to the Council's position for the 2016 EU budget. On 29 October a three-week conciliation period will start and which is aimed at bridging the gap between the Council's and the Parliament's positions.
For the first time since 2009 the Council and the Parliament in 2015 will be able to focus almost entirely on the EU budget for the following year. This contrasts with previous years when the discussions were hampered by a number of outstanding draft amending budgets. Apart from draft amending budget no 8 related to own resources and presented by the Commission on 19 October all draft amending budgets for 2015 have already been adopted by the Council and the Parliament.