Budget 2008 : Growth and Employment Take Precedence over Agriculture

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For the first time since 2004, the Barroso Commission has proposed more expenditure for growth and employment than for agriculture in its annual budget. This was revealed in the draft 2008 budget adopted by the EU executive on 2 May.

For the second financial year in the 2007-2013 Financial Framework, a sum of 129.2 billion in commitment appropriations has been proposed, representing 1.03% of the EU's gross national income (GNI) and an increase of 2% (+2.6 billion) compared to the 2007 budget. A sum of 121.6 billion in payment appropriations has been allocated, the equivalent of 0.97% of the EU's GNI, representing an increase of 5.3% (+6 billion) compared to 2007. "It's a budget representing moderate growth, a certain realism and enormous respect for the taxpayers' money," said Dalia Grybauskaite, the commissioner for the budget and financial programming, in Brussels on 2 May.

As already mentioned, the lion's share of the budget (57.2 billion in commitment appropriations, representing 44.2%) will be allocated to Section 1 (sustainable growth: competitiveness and cohesion). This is a 4.2% (+2.3 billion) increase compared to 2007 and impacts primarily on growth and employment policies. The Commission's aim is to respond to the objectives set out in the Lisbon Strategy and to meet new challenges. It has therefore also proposed to increase the budget for lifelong learning programmes by 9% (+63.5% for Erasmus Mundus), research funding by 11%, investment in Trans-European Transport and Energy Networks by 14% and the Galileo budget by 51%. There are, however, still problems in adopting the legal base and delays are expected. Elsewhere, in view of the development of new programmes to promote cohesion and the integration of new member states in these actions, the Commission has also requested that expenditure in this area be increased by 3.1%compared to 2007.

Section 2 (conservation and management of natural resources) has now dropped to second place but nevertheless retains a 43.6% share of the 2008 budget (56.3 billion in commitment appropriations). This is the same sum as in 2007. A closer look reveals that direct aid to farmers and market-related expenditure has dropped by 0.5% (due to the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, compensations for Bulgaria and Romania and market fluctuations), whereas funding for rural development and the environment has increased by 1.8% (+11% for the LIFE+ programme).

ROOM FOR MANOEUVRE

The percentage of the budget allocated to Section 3 (freedom, security, justice and citizenship) will be 1%, or 1. …