Quick as a flash, the EU commission has posted the good tidings that the EU parliament has agreed the budget for 2005.
The largely empty ritual of the EU parliament voting for the budget means that the money for next year's EU finances is secure. It elicited an equally ritual response from Dalia Grybauskaité, commissioner for financial programming and budget, who said: "Financial resources for the enlarged Europe are now secured. The European priorities have been respected."
That is so European… they do love that word "respect". You never obey laws in Euroland, you respect them. You never observe, recognise or conform with traditions, you respect them. Likewise, you never accept, endorse or agree priorities… you guessed it, you respect them. Urghh.
So little Dalia drivels on in her leaden Eurospeak, telling the world that "We have increased funding to support the Lisbon Strategy, to promote freedom, peace, liberty and justice, and to reinforce information to citizens and the debate on the future of the Union." Everything is fine in the world. We can all sit back and relax.
Wait a bit though - what's that about "…reinforce information to citizens and the debate on the future of the Union"? Ah, that's the hike in the EU propaganda budget to help push through the ratification of the constitution. Nice to know our tax money is being well spent.
Anyhow, the 2005 budget for EU 25 is going to be €106.3 billion, representing 1.004 percent of the combined Gross National Income (GNI) of member states. It is an increase of 4.4 percent compared with the budget for 2004.
The rise, we are told, arises from the full incorporation of the new member states and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. And 2005 is the first year when the reform of the CAP has an important financial impact, says the commission. For "reform" read increase. Spending goes up to €49.7 billion, a hike of 10.2 percent.
Regional policy commitments are set at €42.4 billion, the second largest appropriation in the EU budget - much of which will require co-funding before it is paid – but the commission is alrady warning that there might not be enough money in this pot, suggesting that it may need to present "a preliminary draft amending budget" in the middle of 2005. When the commission comes out with its begging bowl, the EU parliament and the council "have committed themselves to take a swift decision". You bet.
Internal policies "concentrate on the fight against international terrorism" which, together with the budget for health and consumer protection, research, education and culture and transport and energy, amounts to a relatively modest €9.1 billion, although much greater expenditure will be borne by member states in complying with EU requirements.
You will be pleased to know, also, that the EU is going to focus actions on "restoring peace and democracy". Commitments here are set at €5.2 billion, including a paltry €200 million for Iraq (as against £3.1 billion so far from the UK).
Pre-accession aid is set at €2.1 billion. For the first time Croatia is included under this strategy and will receive €105 million, an of 60 percent on 2004. The Turkish Cypriot community, in recognition for their support of the EU island unification, gets €120 million, Romania and Bulgaria get €1,552 and Turkey €286.2 million.
Another day, another dollar, as they say. A good day's work for the parliament, wrapping up €106.3 billion of other peoples' money, and a nice little Christmas present for the commission. I do hope the MEPs enjoy their Christmas dinners in the fleshpots of Strasbourg this week.