The European Commission on Monday attempted to
revive stalled talks on the European Union's 2013 budget, presenting
a new draft - but with barely any changes from a previous version.
The revised budget calls for a decrease in payments from 137.9 billion euros (178.7 billion dollars) to 137.8 billion euros, but an increase in spending commitments from 150.9 billion euros to 151 billion euros.
"In a nutshell, there isn't that much difference with our original proposal," commission spokesman Patrizio Fiorilli said in Brussels. "It's 99 per cent the same proposal in terms of figures."
He justified the move by pointing to the fact that national estimates have not changed and that numbers had not been the issue in the collapse of the negotiations.
The European Parliament broke off the talks on November 13, blaming EU governments' refusal to first agree to fund shortfalls in the 2012 budget.
Hanging in the balance are 9 billion euros that the commission says are needed to make ends meet this year - with projects such as the European Social Fund and the Erasmus study-abroad programme running out of money.
"The combination of no response on the 2012 budget with no budget agreement for 2013 means that disruption of Erasmus exchanges will happen sooner rather than later in the new year," EU Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou warned on Monday.
"It should not be Europe's young people who have to pay the price of the current disagreement between institutions," she added.
But even if the parliament and EU governments were to settle their procedural row, another fight looms ahead on how large the 2013 budget should be.
The legislature had endorsed the commission's initial proposal, but member states have pushed for 132.7 billion euros in payments to reflect the austerity they have had to implement back home.
If no agreement is found by the end of this year, the EU will have access to one-twelfth of the 2012 budget or the draft commission budget - whichever is smaller - for each month next year, until a deal can be struck.
Officials have warned that dragging out the talks on the 2013 budget could complicate the already tense discussions on the 2014-20 EU budget.
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