MEPs have voted to increase their budget by 4.2 per cent compared to last year, to €132.7 billion (£116 billion). That is what the European Commission originally proposed – before it was cut back to €129 billion by member states in July.
A spokesman for the British Government said, “In such challenging economic conditions, high growth in EU spending is both unaffordable and out of kilter with the tough measures that many countries are taking to consolidate public finances.” Nice words, but it is vital they don’t acquiesce to increases in the budget again when it is discussed by MEPs and EU ministers later this year.
The European Union’s bloated bureaucracy will be a big winner – in particular, its diplomatic service. Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary William Hague had to warn against a power grab by the European external action service, which might try to “usurp the functions and powers of national foreign ministries”. A report by Dr Lee Rotherham for the TPA in September 2009 warned that this was already happening. Baroness Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has been working hard to expand her budget and powers.
Last month I wrote about how EU officials have refused a minor change in their working hours which would have saved £870 million. MEP Lajos Borokos summed up what many taxpayers would have felt on hearing the news: “The European Parliament is once again showing itself to be out of touch with the real world”. Sadly, at a time when ordinary taxpayers face tax rises and inflation, and EU member states are making difficult budget decisions themselves, this vote for a budget increase only goes to confirm Mr Borokos’ point.