MEPs have approved a more than €2 billion increase in the EU budget for next year, handing EU officials a three per cent pay rise and raising its contributions to Palestinian causes by 10 per cent.
Migration and security measures will also receive hefty budget increases. The extra funds will bring the total budget for 2017 up to a staggering €157.86 billion.
Europe was hit by a huge increase in inward migration last year, with more than a million migrants arriving in Germany alone. Greece, Italy and the Eastern border countries including Hungary have continued to bear the brunt of migration this year, leaving them begging for help from the rest f the EU.
Consequently, the 2017 budget includes more than €6 billion to tackle the migration crisis and security measures arising from it, an increase of 11.3 per cent on the 2016 budget according to European Council figures, Euractiv has reported.
The council said the funds are aimed at helping member states resettle refugees, create reception centres for migrants, integrate those who have the right to stay in Europe and send back those who do not.
MEPs also chose to award a “reinforcement package” of €728 million for mainly migration-related funds, including €28 million more for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The sum brings total EU funding of that agency up to €310m, despite allegations that it supports terror group Hamas.
In addition, the Parliament was pleased to approve an extra €500 million for the Youth Employment Initiative to help young jobseekers, as well as a further €200 million for programs such as Erasmus+ and the Horizon 2020 research projects.
“We have reached our aims. The 2017 budget clearly focuses on our priorities of boosting growth, creating jobs – especially for youngsters – and tackling the migration crisis. The additional 500 million Euro we obtained for the Youth Employment Initiative is a clear signal for the EU to act. We have also done our utmost to deal with the root causes of migration”, said lead rapporteur (Commission section) Jens Geier (S&D, DE).
However, not all MEPs were enthusiastic. UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott, a member of the Parliament’s Budgetary Control committee, commented:
“All EU officials have just been given a 3.3 percent salary increase and now they have an austerity-defying EU budget increase of over 2 billion pounds. The EU’s Christmas stocking is already bursting, I suppose after 2016 they could use some good news.
“UKIP has had amendment after amendment calling for budget reductions thrown out by Labour and Tory MEPs. When will they realise the British people voted for this exact thing to stop? OBR figures show that the British taxpayer stomped up a net £11.1 billion to the EU in 2016. The quicker we leave the EU the more money we will save.”
MEPs approved the 2017 budget by 438 votes for, 194 against and seven abstentions.