EU states, parliament agree new 2015 budget

[BRUSSELS] EU member states and the European parliament said Tuesday they have reached a deal on a new 2015 budget for the 28-country bloc after bridging gaps that threatened to scupper a deal.

The two had failed to reach an agreement in November as cost-conscious EU governments came under heavy domestic pressure to cut the size of a Brussels bureaucracy viewed as profligate.

Complicating matters this year was an angry row over the recalculation of member state contributions to the EU budget that saw Britain tapped to pay an extra 2.1 billion euros.

In the end, both sides said they agreed to a budget that calls for 141.2 billion euros (US$174.5 billion) in payments.

"We have a deal," liberal European MP and negotiator Jean Arthuis told AFP. "It's now just left for us to formalise it."

The agreement also provides for an increase of payments by 3.5 billion euros for the 2014 budget to tackle what the European Council - which groups the leaders of the member states - called "the unprecedented scale of unpaid bills."

But the EU has between 25 and 30 billion euros of unpaid debts in total, Arthuis said.

Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan of Italy, which holds the rotating chair of the European Council, welcomed the budget agreement.

The deal tackles the "need to address the backlog of payments, the importance not to jeopardise member states' efforts to consolidate their public finance and the necessity to provide indispensable stimuli for creating jobs and generating growth in the future," he said.

The budget includes eight billion euros in seed money aimed at helping launch European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker's 315-billion euro investment plan to kickstart the stalling EU economy.

The council said the parliament's budgets committee is expected to confirm the agreement on Thursday, with the council to take a final decision on Friday and parliament on 17 December.


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