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EU Commission proposes 149-billion-euro budget for 2019

Brussels  - The European Commission proposed a 2019 budget of 149 billion euros (174.5 billion dollars) on Wednesday, laying the groundwork for traditionally tough negotiations, overshadowed this year by efforts to agree the bloc's next long-term spending plans.

EU member states are already squaring up over the commission's post-2020 spending proposals, which must meet new priorities such as security and migration, while plugging a large funding gap left by Britain's departure from the European Union next year.

The commission's proposed spending for 2019 represents an annual increase of around 3 per cent, due in part to new programmes agreed under the current long-term budget framework that are now kicking in, according to the EU's executive.

Increase the budget to meet European priorities

"We are proposing an ambitious budget that continues to support our priorities, in particular on investment, jobs, youth, migration, solidarity and security," said EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.

Most of the EU money flows back into the bloc's 28 countries, for everything from agricultural subsidies and support for poorer regions to research and education programmes.

Member states typically seek to limit expenditures, while the European Parliament tends to advocate more spending. Both sides are expected to present their proposals in the coming months, ahead of a mid-November deadline to reach agreement.

The 2019 budget is based on the assumption that Britain will continue to contribute as a full member state until the end of 2020, the commission said. The country is due to leave the EU in March.

Charges by European lawmakers

Meanwhile, Oettinger defended himself on Wednesday against accusations by EU lawmakers that he had played down the size of proposed cuts in the next long-term budget, notably in areas such as agriculture and subsidies for poorer regions.

According to the parliamentarians, agricultural spending in the next seven-year budget will shrink by 15 per cent, rather than the 5 per cent calculated by the commission. Cohesion funding will fall by 10 per cent, not the proposed 7 per cent, they have calculated.

"The parliament wants a higher budget. That's why it is not prepared - or part of parliament is not prepared - to accept these calculations," Oettinger said.