The executive arm of the European Union has asked for an increase of nearly 5 percent in the organization’s 2012 budget, a decision that angered member states, many of which are making major domestic spending cuts as they struggle to emerge from the global financial crisis. The EU Commission represents some 500 million people in Europe and is responsible for allocating funds. About 80 billion euros in the current budget of roughly 120 billion euros is allocated to farming subsidies and regional development initiatives. Development aid would expand under the proposed 2012 budget largely to deal with poorer countries new to the union.
The call for greater EU spending was met with outrage in several capitals, particularly in countries engaged in major austerity drives, like Britain. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office called the increase “not acceptable.” Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager said the proposal was “out of proportion” and asked: “How can we explain to our citizens who are tightening their belts that the European budget simply keeps on growing?” For 2011, the commission asked initially for a 6 percent increase, which was bargained down to 2.9 percent after similar outrage erupted across the Continent. The Commission defended the increases, pointing out that the EU had made legal commitments years ago to fund development programs. “We cannot punish our citizens, companies, local, and regional authorities who have a right to get their bills paid,” said EU budget chief Janusz Lewandowski.