BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers and the EU bloc of 28 countries have reached a preliminary deal on next year’s budget on condition that the group’s executive body find a way to pay off unpaid bills totalling more than 20 billion euros ($24.65 billion).
Both sides reached an impasse last month after EU governments rejected a demand from the European Parliament to use windfall antitrust fines to pay down the bills.
Governments have long battled with the Brussels legislature to hold down EU spending, which accounts for only about 2 percent of all public expenditure across the bloc. The bulk of the funds is used to support farmers and underdeveloped regions.
Lawmakers said on Monday that it was now up to the European Commission to take action to reduce the mountain of unpaid bills, which jumped to 23.4 billion euros at the start of this year from 5 billion in 2010.
“Parliament’s negotiators agreed to the 2015 budget on condition that the Commission presents a plan to reduce the amount of the unpaid bills to a sustainable level by 2016,” the legislature said in a statement.
The two sides agree to a total of 141.2 billion euros in European spending next year. Formal approval of the deal is scheduled at a Parliamentary session on Dec. 15-18.
($1 = 0.8114 euros)
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Ralph Boulton