BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) lawmakers on Thursday approved 2008 budget for the 27-nation bloc, with the biggest share to go on boosting economic growth for the first time, instead of paying farm subsidies.
The total budget, adopted by the European Parliament today in Strasbourg, France, amounts to 129.1 billion euros in commitment appropriations, which include funds scheduled to be spent over one or more years.
It is increased by 2.2 percent compared to this year and corresponds to 1.03 percent of the EU gross national income (GNI).
The payment appropriations, covering payments made within the year, amount to 120.3 billion euros, or an increase of 5.7 percent in nominal terms. This represents 0.96 percent of EU GNI.
In 2008, for the first time ever, the largest share of the EU budget goes on measures to boost economic growth and greater cohesion in the EU. Forty five percent of all EU spending next year is earmarked in this regard, while over 40 percent of EU cash will continue to be spent on the costly common agricultural policy, which in the past ate up the biggest part due to large amount of farm subsidies.
"With the largest share going to competitiveness, the 2008 budget is a concrete result of the union's determination to put long-term economic development at the heart of the EU spending", said Dalia Grybauskaite, EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget.
EU lawmakers and member states reached an agreement in November on the 2008 budget after solving the thorny issue of making more public money available to the Galileo project, a European satellite navigation network in competition with the United States Global Positioning System (GPS).
In 2008, 300 million euros are set aside for Galileo. Several programs under competitiveness will provide a total of 940 million euros to Galileo for its start-up phase.
EU member states have agreed to pump an extra 2.4 billion euros into the program over the 2007-2013 period, with 1.6 billion euros coming from unused farm subsidies.
After lawmakers' approval, the new year budget will be officially signed next Tuesday.