The Scottish Government needs to work hard to ensure Scotland maintains existing levels of EU funding during a period of austerity, according to a report published today by the European and External Relations Committee.
In its report on the EU budget review the committee highlighted the importance of the EU budget in determining how much EU funding would be available to Scotland to address issues such as climate change, the funding of renewable energy developments, maintaining regional development and to support hard pressed farmers and the Scottish fishing industry.
The European and External Relations Committee is the first among all of the European regional parliaments to publish a report on the EU budget review.
Committee Convener Irene Oldfather MSP said: “In these times of impending austerity it is increasingly important that Scotland maximises the benefit of EU membership.
“Scotland has substantial resources and expertise for the development of renewable forms of energy, but at this critical time it is imperative that European funding for research and development is maintained. The EU’s recognition of climate change and energy supply as critical issues for Europe provides opportunities for Scotland to secure EU funding.
“The contribution of Scotland’s farmers and fishermen is also of importance, and whilst the committee recognises that the CAP and CFP systems need to be reformed, it is crucial that Scotland’s distinct interests are not overlooked.
“The EU budget for 2014-2020, which was always going to be significant to Scotland, will take on far greater importance during this period of economic retrenchment. Scotland’s voice must be heard now in the corridors of Europe in order to influence the discussions that will be so important to us all.”
The committee said it was important to establish a coherent approach in terms of engaging on the EU budget and will seek to work with Scottish stakeholders, Scottish parliamentary committees and the wide range of EU actors in the furthering of its EU strategy.
The committee also:
• strongly supported the concept of a policy-driven EU budget;
• called for added value, supported by clear assessment criteria, to be at the heart of all future EU spending decisions;
• recommended that further work is done to assess any alternative mechanisms of financing the EU budget;
• supported the need for long term strategic planning alongside greater flexibility and responsiveness in the EU budget; and
• noted concerns raised in evidence about the high levels of bureaucracy and unnecessary administrative burdens currently associated with EU funding streams.
The European Commission initiated its EU budget review with the launch of a public consultation in September 2007. It had been intended that the EU budget review would influence the preparation of the next EU budget (the Multi Annual Financial Framework), spanning 2014-2020.
However, the Commission’s review has been delayed and a Communication is expected to appear in July or September 2010 which will conclude the review process before discussions begin on the Financial Framework.
The Scottish Government highlighted the EU budget review as one of its key EU priorities. Given the relevance of the EU budget to Scotland, the committee undertook some initial evidence gathering before formally beginning its inquiry in September 2008.
The committee has agreed to monitor the EU budget review, the Multi-Annual Financial Framework and the Scottish Government's engagement in these processes. The committee will consider options for further work in relation to the EU budget once a response to its report has been received from the Scottish Government.
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