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MEPs call for clearer priorities

EU budgetary resources are likely to be scarce after 2013, and so must be used sparingly. The EU Commissioners for energy, development, transport and research, plus an EU External Action Service representative, were quizzed by the Policy Challenges Committee Tuesday on where they feel the money should go.

The first debate, with Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, centred on how to save energy, reduce Europe’s dependence on foreign energy suppliers and secure sustainable funding for the ITER international nuclear fusion research project. MEPs also stressed the importance of energy choices in combating climate change and questioned the wisdom of using public/private combined funding for energy projects.

External relations

The EU’s new foreign service is likely to bring savings in national diplomatic budgets only when Member States have seen that the service works in practice and have started trusting it to replace their national diplomats, said European External Action Service Chief Operating Officer David O’Sullivan in reply to MEPs’ questions. However, he hoped that some resources, up to 10%, could be made available when people who now have the same tasks in different institutions (Council, Commission, national diplomatic services) can work together. These saved resources could be used to cover sudden and urgent needs.

On development policy, MEPs asked Commissioner Andris Pielbalgs how he intends to ensure that EU and national development aid complement each other in the most effective possible way, how EU development policy is linked with the EU 2020 strategy are and how it can help combat climate change and promote democracy. Mr Pielbalgs suggested that those countries that already specialise in a specific region or theme should pursue their work and that the Commission should focus on ensuring that no area is forgotten and concentrate on what is best done at EU level.

Transport and research

MEPs agreed with Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas that the EU transport budget should focus on cross-border projects that create a true EU added value, since the next long-term budget is likely to be at least as restricted as the current one. They also wanted to hear more about how cohesion policy and transport policy can complement each other better and how the railways can be made more competitive.

The challenge of stepping up EU research to a level at least comparable with the USA and China, and how to simplify research funding application procedures were the key issues in the debate with Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. MEPs were also interested in how Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn plans to boost support to innovative small and medium-size enterprises and what role she sees for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

These meetings provided input for the committee’s report on the next long-term budget framework. Next week, the committee will meet Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Employment Commissioner László Andor. PM & Picture © European Commission – Picture: © stock.xchng (SXC)

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