EU Plans Budget Increase as Investment Fund Nears Start

The European Union plans a 1.6 percent increase in spending next year as the bloc gears up for contributions to an investment fund meant to kick-start economic growth.

The European Commission proposed an EU budget of 143.5 billion euros ($156.1 billion) for 2016 compared with 141.2 billion euros earmarked for this year.

The new spending program includes 500 million euros in guarantees for the planned European Fund for Strategic Investments, which is supposed to unlock 315 billion euros for the sluggish EU economy through risk sharing with private investors in energy, broadband and transport infrastructure.

“Our 2016 budget supports the economic recovery through investment for growth and jobs,” European Budget Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement on Wednesday in Brussels.

The spending proposal by the commission, the EU executive arm that is predicting economic growth in the 28-nation bloc of 1.8 percent this year, needs the support of member-state governments and the European Parliament.

National governments finance about 70 percent of the EU budget, most of which goes to agricultural aid and regional development. Next year the EU farm industry would receive 54.8 billion euros, including for rural development, while regional-development aid would amount to 47.9 billion euros.

The annual EU budget is part of seven-year spending plans by the bloc, which has fixed its total expenditure for 2014-2020 at 960 billion euros. European expenditure is about 1 percent of EU gross domestic product, compared with national spending in the bloc that is around 50 percent of domestic GDP.