European Parliament Rejects Austerity Budget

European ParliamentPhoto: Tom Redford

European Parliament
Photo: Tom Redford

After a November deadlock and subsequent 24-hour “marathon” of talks in the European Parliament, lawmakers in Brussels rejected a slate of proposed spending cuts in a vote on Wednesday, March 13.

The first set of proposed spending cuts in the European Union’s history, the €960 billion ($1.2 billion) budget was overwhelmingly rejected 506 to 161.  According to the Wall Street Journal, lawmakers were dissatisfied with the ultimate figures proposed in the budget bill, explaining the resolution “doesn’t explicitly push for higher spending caps.”  European lawmakers, member states, and the E.U.’s executive branch (the European Commission) will now have to re-open negotiations in the hope of voting on a new resolution this June or July.

The proposed spending cuts came in response to calls from several E.U. member states—including the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands—for the Union to adopt greater measures of austerity in its spending habits.

The proposed seven-year plan failed to address Parliament’s previous requests that more of the European budget be dedicated to economic growth spending, and that the budget remain flexible for appropriations of funds.  German Socialist Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, called the proposal rejection “an important step for the European democracy,” as European lawmakers continue to grapple over austerity measures aimed at boosting the continent’s economy.

The fallout from Wednesday’s vote offered Schultz another opportunity to advance the European Parliament’s public profile, which has seen increased engagement in public policy after years of being viewed as a “multi-lingual talking shop, which at best rubber-stamped decisions,” according to Money News.

“The vote has shown that the European Parliament must be taken seriously as a negotiating partner,” Shultz said.  Shultz will undoubtedly challenge negotiators to allocate funds to stimulate growth, similar to pre-sequester American approaches to re-vamping an economy in crisis.

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