Oct 29 2012
Labour has called for a real-terms cut in the budget of the European Union.
The move will be seen as an attempt to seize the initiative on Europe from Prime Minister David Cameron, who is fighting the 5% hike in the EU's long-term budgets requested by the European Commission but has accepted that the budget should rise in line with inflation - currently a little over 2%.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander used an article in The Times to say that, like the governments of its 27 member states, the EU should accept it must cut spending in the current austere economic conditions.
But they said Mr Cameron was "ill-equipped" to secure the reduction in spending because he has alienated European partners through his approach to the EU, including the use of the UK's veto to block a treaty on measures to rescue the eurozone.
Their call for any budget increase to be kept below inflation comes ahead of a debate on Wednesday in the House of Commons on the Government's negotiating stance at next month's EU summit, which is expected to fix the spending perspective for the seven-year period 2014-20.
In their article, Mr Balls and Mr Alexander said: "Every country across Europe, including Britain, is having to make difficult decisions about spending - trying to do better with less. And the European Union is not - and should not be - exempt from this challenge.
"The crisis in the eurozone and a chronic lack of growth across the continent mean that EU resources are stretched and priorities must be revised. The challenge for the EU, as for national governments, is to cut spending in a way that is both fair and supports rather than stifles jobs and growth.
"That is why the priority for the new seven-year budget must be to promote growth and jobs across Europe. And that is why Labour will argue against the proposed increase in EU spending and instead support a real-terms cut in the budget. We believe these goals are difficult but achievable with the right leadership and the right approach from the UK."
Mr Balls and Mr Alexander called for savings from the Common Agricultural Policy and from more effective use of the EU's structural funds to support disadvantaged areas of the continent.
They said that an independent EU auditor should be appointed to review every aspect of spending for its impact on promoting growth in member states. And they called for the creation of a position of Growth Commissioner to lead efforts to boost the ailing economies of the EU.