EU Approves 1.8% Budget Boost in 2016 as Refugee Spending Soars

The European Union approved a 1.8 percent increase in spending next year as the 28-nation bloc boosts outlays to cope with a wave of refugees from war-torn parts of the Middle East and Africa.

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, for an EU 2016 budget of 143.9 billion euros ($153.6 billion) compared with 141.3 billion euros this year. The new spending plan more than doubles funding for migration-related measures within the EU to 1.53 billion euros from 658 million euros in 2015.

Unrest in countries from Syria to Libya has provoked an unprecedented wave of more than 860,000 people seeking shelter within the 28-nation EU this year. The influx of refugees slipping through the EU’s porous southern borders and heading northward has created political rifts within the bloc as German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Europe must honor its asylum commitments and leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban complain of strains on their societies.

The 2016 EU budget also boosts funding for migration-related actions -- including humanitarian aid -- beyond the bloc’s borders to 10.2 billion euros from 7.5 billion euros this year. EU governments have already signed off on the new spending plan, making Wednesday’s endorsement by the 751-seat Parliament the final step in the approval process.

National governments finance about 75 percent of the EU budget, most of which goes to regional development and farm aid. 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.

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