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EU lawmakers reject budget plan

(Shanghai Daily)

08:52, March 14, 2013

THE European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposal for the European Union's 960-billion-euro (US$1.3 trillion) budget yesterday, in the latest example of the lawmakers' newfound resolve to stand up to EU national leaders.

"This is an important step for the European democracy," said European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

The seven-year plan - brokered at a summit of the 27 heads of state and government last month after two days of nearly round-the-clock negotiations - didn't address parliament's main demands that more be spent on economic growth and that there be flexibility to move money within the budget. For that reason, Schulz said, it had to be rejected. The leaders' proposal involved spending cuts for the first time in the EU's history and would cement the bloc's budget through 2020.

"The vote has shown that the European Parliament must be taken seriously as a negotiating partner," Schulz said. "We are now ready to negotiate a fair multi-annual budget," he added.

The parliament and government representatives must now try to hammer out a compromise. Officials say they aim to finalize it before the summer.

The parliament has started to flex its muscle under the leadership of the plain-spoken and assertive Schulz. And the EU's 27 governments have already started to see a shift in the balance of power - as have the continent's top banking executives. Earlier this month, in arduous negotiations, the parliament forced the member governments to accept a cap on bankers' bonuses to the amount of their base salaries, or twice that if shareholders agree.

Lawmakers added the bonus caps to an important package of legislation strengthening the EU's banking system. Eager to pass the package without further delay, the governments grudgingly accepted the parliament's proposal, despite strenuous opposition from Britain, home to the EU's biggest financial community.

Before the latest show of power, many observers had long criticized the parliament as just a multi-lingual talking shop, which at best rubber-stamped decisions prepared by national leaders or the European Commission.

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