Ahead of discussions on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in the European Council this week (February 7-8), the Irish Presidency provides background detail on the main events, Presidency priorities and the role of the Presidency in negotiations.
What is happening this week?
EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, with a major item on their agenda being the EU's budget for 2014-2020, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). It is hoped that the leaders can agree their view the overall framework for the MFF, including the total overall budget (c. €1,000,000,000,000) as well the breakdown of this amount across a group of spending areas. These spending areas include growth and competitiveness, cohesion policy, agriculture and fisheries, research, environment, justice & home affairs and foreign affairs.
If the European Council agrees its position on the MFF, the Irish Presidency will have the responsibility of engaging with the European Parliament on agreeing the overall budget. In partnership with the European Parliament, the Presidency will also manage negotiations on the c. 70 pieces of individual legislation needed to mobilise this funding in the interests of stability, jobs and growth. A graphic guide to this process can be found here on the website of the Council of the European Union.
Additional focus on youth unemployment, in line with the Irish Presidency's priorities
The President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, has said in a video published here on this website yesterday (5 February) that the budget must help tackle urgent problems and be an engine for jobs and growth in the future. In particular, he has reflected the Irish Presidency's focus on youth employment, stating that he will propose a new initiative with a 'substantial amount of money' targeting the most afflicted regions in order to help get young people back to work.
In parallel with the European Council in Brussels, Employment and Social Policy Ministers will be meeting in Dublin and will have a special session on youth employment and on the proposed 'Youth Guarantee' recommendation on which the Presidency will hope to secure agreement in Brussels next week. See event details here.
Also, the Irish Presidency Programme for stability, jobs and growth includes a series of measures focused on young people including education mobility, recognition of qualifications and promotion of the high-growth digital sector where young people are to the fore.
What is the Presidency's role in these negotiations?
The Irish Presidency is centrally involved at both official and political level.
The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) will represent Ireland at the European Council, which will be chaired by President Herman van Rompuy. On Monday 4 January, the Taoiseach travelled to Brussels for a meeting of the '4 Presidents' - with Presidents Van Rompuy, Barroso (Commission) and Schulz (European Parliament) - to assess prospects for agreement and identify key issues. The same day, the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Eamon Gilmore, chaired a meeting of Foreign Ministers at the General Affairs Council. This meeting, which President van Rompuy attended over lunch, prepared the ground for the European Council.
The Tánaiste also met on that day with lead negotiators from the European Parliament, together with the Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton.
As set out above, the Irish Presidency's key role relates to the European Parliament as one of the three negotiating parties to the MFF. It stands ready to move immediately on these negotiations if the European Council agrees its position this week.
More details on the MFF process can be found here on the Council website.