Wednesday, 6 May 2009

European elections: Libertas saving our money?

Someone might see an ironic contradiction in the two announcements we see today on the web pages of

1) The European elections begin in some 28 days.
2) Policies: The Libertas programme for a better Europe will be published on this site in the coming weeks.


Waiting for Godot, we turn to what Libertas has on offer regarding the future of Europe and the next five years of legislative work in the European Parliament.

The third core principle of Libertas is:

“Save money: €10 billion in savings to be identified by the Commission in the next financial year.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? At least until you take a closer look. Let’s do that.


Long term budget

The European Union lives by the multiannual financial framework essentially set by the heads of state or government of the member states, currently from 2007 to 2013, although formalised by an agreement between the institutions.

Income and expenditure hover around 1 per cent of gross national income (GNI) annually, far from a federal budget of proportions.


Annual budget

The framework is the basis for the expectations of the EU member states and for recipients of EU funds until the end of 2013.

The annual budgets are prepared within this framework by the Commission, and approved by the Council and the Euroepan Parliament.

Based on the existing framework and legitimate expectations, the Commission presented its preliminary draft budget for 2010 on 29 April 2009.

Mainly within the framework constraints, but with new measures towards an economic recovery, the proposed sum total of expenditure grows to € 139 billion. This translates into about 284 euros per EU resident.

How does a radical proposal for savings fit the economic circumstances and the timetable?

Even if the final vote on the budget takes place in December, the financial framework is in place until the end of 2013, and the European Council has given green light to certain recovery measures.

The budget exercise for 2010 is well under way. The Commission will take the opinions of the Council and the European Parliament into account before its final proposal. The Council and the EP will then fix their positions, before having to reconcile their views before final approval.

Nothing tells me that any of these institutions is going to veer off course to heed calls for unspecified budget cuts.

Libertas’ “core principle” is a figment of their imagination, meant to be swallowed by uninformed voters.


Who is responsible?

We have to admit that calls for profound change, including budget reform, can be justified even if they have no immediate chance of success. Every reform starts from modest beginnings until it gains acceptance.

What makes Libertas’ call hypocritical and cowardly is that they don’t even try to tell us where to cut. The savings should be identified by the Commission, without Libertas taking any responsibility.

In the realm of sanctimonious bluster, this is worth an Oscar.

The draft budget contains € 59 billion spending on agriculture and € 49.4 billion on structural funds. This is about 78 per cent of the total budget, and it is mainly spent in the member states.

Does Lisbertas want to cut back our dependence on subsidy-driven farming? Do they want to terminate “cohesion” funding in rich member states, or deprive the new member states of their structural funds?

Surely, a new political party with a “pan-European vision” knows where to save and has the guts to tell us(?)

The rest of the proposed budget (about 21.8 per cent) is shared between competitiveness, citizenship, freedom, security and justice, external action and administrative expenditure.

Even if the sums are minor in comparison, we need to be told about possible savings.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. A few observations outside the theme of this post: Libertas has introduced a certain professionalism and dynamic in its campaigning techniques during these last days. They contact people through e-mails and social media. Today there are several additional posts on their central web pages. Behind language barriers activists in different member states seem to be free to concoct wildly diverging messages without much outside notice.

In terms of (inter)active campaigning, the competition is still in the starting blocks. Despite the fact that the policies we have looked at this far have been shown to be populist rubbish, the established Europarties ignore Libertas at their peril.