For five years as humanitarian aid and crisis response commissioner I wrote blogs about people caught in the quagmire of wars or struck by natural disasters. I thought I was leaving this writing behind when I took over budget and human resources in Team Juncker. Wrong. Just weeks into the job I am deep into dealing with a budget crisis.
Negotiations between the two decision makers for the EU budget, the European Parliament and the Council of the 28 member states, failed to get to an agreement by the midnight deadline this Monday. I saw some of the budget negotiators in the room taking pictures of the time and tweeting them out with disappointed messages.
I have to admit I was disappointed too. We all -- the European Parliament, the Member States and the Commission -- had worked hard, and progress had been made. At the 11th hour (11.15pm to be precise), there seemed to be a small chance that we might find a way through. In the end it didn't happen, there were still too many issues to be resolved, and we ran out of time. The clock dial turned, we passed midnight, our carriage was a pumpkin, and our horses - mice running away across the floor of the Parliament's Altiero Spinelli building. Cinderella was standing there, holding bills she couldn't pay.
Back to the drawing board to present a new budget I reflect on the reasons why negotiations failed. For one thing we started the real negotiations too late. But there are more serious and substantive reasons. This is the first time after a long debate on a new seven year budget package that we have sat down to negotiate the yearly budget. What is obvious is that it is a tighter budget than in the past, that unpaid bills piled up, and that creates tension. We have an unusual problem this year related to large scale adjustments of Member States' contributions that also has to be solved. There is tension in and between Member States as belts are still being tightened. There is tension between the Member States and the European Parliament, as the political agreement on the EU budget is tested in practice.
We have to be sensitive to these tensions and yet find a way to fund the work our budget is for. It is for our people - in cities and farms, in businesses and universities, looking for jobs, counting on funds from the EU to build roads and pay for social programs. We can't let them down.