BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission proposed on Wednesday additional EU spending of 11.2 billion euros (£9.5 billion) this year, to fill a funding gap that threatens to delay agreement on the bloc’s next long-term budget.
If approved by governments and lawmakers, the extra money would represent an 8.4 percent increase in the 133 billion euro budget for 2013 agreed in December, pushing annual EU spending to its highest level ever.
The European Parliament has threatened to delay its vote on the 960 billion euro ($1.2 trillion) budget deal for 2014-2020 reached by EU leaders in February, demanding the spending shortfall for 2013 be resolved.
The Commission sought to pre-empt protests over the extra spending from EU countries that contribute most to the budget. It blamed member governments for setting annual budgets far below the forecast level of spending, in an attempt to control costs.
“This cannot come as a surprise,” EU budget commissioner Januz Lewandowski said in a statement. “The ostrich policy can only work for so long: postponing payment of a bill will not make it go away.”
But Britain’s Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark described the Commission’s proposal as totally unacceptable.
“It is extraordinary that the Commission should demand an increase in the EU budget that is bigger than the rescue package that was agreed for Cyprus earlier this week,” he said in a statement.
Of the extra money, 9 billion euros is for approved infrastructure projects, such as new roads and bridges, the Commission said. No extra cash will be spent on EU salaries or other administrative costs.
The parliament had estimated the likely funding gap for this year at about 16 billion euros, but some EU governments had put it at between 10 and 11 billion euros.
The 11.2 billion euro increase is the most the Commission could propose without asking EU governments to revise the spending ceilings for 2007-2013 agreed in 2006, which would require unanimity.
Reporting by Charlie Dunmore; editing by Rex Merrifield