EU budget is ‘too small’ to handle pressure of migration crisis, says European Commission president, as he rebukes national governments for failing to offer enough aid
The crisis has driven the EU’s “too small” 150-billion euro budget to its limit, the president of the European Commission said, as he lamented that billions in aid pledged by national governments had not turned up
The European Commission has announced it will double spending earmarked for dealing with migration next year to nearly 10 billion euros. That cash was raised in part after budget officials “scratched around” for spare cash.
“The EU budget is limited. Its resources are limited. The possibilities for flexible implementation are limited too. We are really at the limit of its budgetary capacity here,” Mr Juncker told the European Parliament. The Parliament recently called budgets to be hiked by more than four billion euros, in a move that would see Britain pay an extra £400 million next year.
“The Commission has done everything to make sure all capacities are available to help this effort. But the European budget is too small to deal by itself with the problems we are facing.”
“I would call on member states, parliament and the European Investment Bank to think about all possible methods of additional financing, to find the money we need to meet the crisis. When we have exceptional circumstances we need exceptional financing.”
The European Commission has also proposed activating an emergency budget flexibility mechanism, allowing it to lift its budget ceiling by 1.5 billion over the next four years.
In addition, national governments face multi-billion pound bills for healthcare, education and housing in the coming years to deal with an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants.
The warning that the cash is running out will be met with alarm in Downing Street. David Cameron scored a major victory in 2013 when the EU agreed to cut spending in a deal running from 2014-2020, and reopening that deal would be a toxic move in the middle of the British renegotiation that all parties would be desperate to avoid.
Critics say the Commission should radically cut grants and subsidies that make up the majority of the EU budget before turning to taxpayers for more.
Werner Hoyer, the head of the European Investment Bank, at the weekend said his organisation would need to develop “new instruments” to raise cash to support countries hit by the influx. “The immigration emergency will require enormous investments,” he said.
Mr Juncker attacked governments for a sluggish response to the crisis. EU nations promised to provide an extra 2.3 billion euros in emergency aid for North Africa, but so far only 86 million euros has been pledged. Offers to relocate just 700 people have been made out of a target of 160,000.
In addition, the EU has yet to work out how to raise some three billion euros that it has promised to give to Turkey in exchange for halting the migrant flows.
Mr Juncker said states are “moving slowly at a time when they should be running.”
“The gap between the pledges and what is on the table must be reduced, otherwise we are losing all kinds of credibility.”
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said the worst migration crisis since the second world war could change the continent forever.
“I have no doubt that this challenge has the potential to change the European Union we have built. And what is even more dangerous, it has the potential to create tectonic changes in the European political landscape. And these are not changes for the better.”