The European Union approved a 3.2% spending increase next year, the first annual EU budget for 27 member states. The €115.5 billion budget will cover the EU's current 25 nations plus Romania and Bulgaria, which are due to join on January 1.
The Strasbourg, France-based European Parliament endorsed the €3.6 billion spending increase today after the EU's national governments backed it. Next year's budget will be less than 1% of the EU’s GDP and reflects “a very prudent approach on payments,” said James Elles, a UK member of the Parliament's budget committee. Some programs are getting under way and will receive more money later.
The 2007 budget begins a new seven-year EU spending plan approved by national governments and the Parliament earlier this year. The 2007-2013 program marked a victory for the EU's main financiers including Germany and the UK, which demanded limits on their payments after eight ex-communist nations plus Cyprus and Malta joined the bloc in May 2004.
National governments finance 70% of the EU budget and the accord fixed total spending in 2007-2013 at €864 billion, or 1.05% of the region's GDP. At less than half of German federal spending, the EU budget goes mainly to agriculture and regional development. The 2007 budget earmarks €54.7 billion in farm spending and €37.8 billion in regional aid.