Agenda

EU budget, Merkel on agenda this WEEK

02.11.12 @ 17:54

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Negotiations on the EU's next seven-year budget start on Monday (5 November), with sources predicting a deal on €200 billion cuts.

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy's head of cabinet, Didier Seeuws, will chair bilateral talks with member states' ministers, ambassadors and sherpas during the week.

The European Commission's top civil servant, Catherine Day, will also take part.

She will be there to defend the commission's €1,033 billion spending proposal.

But when member states' ambassadors met last week, a powerful group - France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Nordic countries - pushed for a lower number.

"I think we'll have a deal on cuts of up to €200 billion," an EU source said.

"At the end of the meeting, Didier [Seeuws] said if we don't agree at the November summit then we can't do it in December because there are other important issues to deal with and we probably won't do it next year because of the heavy political agenda. We have elections in Germany, in Italy - we have to do it now," the EU contact added.

EU finance ministers will try to agree the 2013 EU budget at a meeting with MEPs and EU officials on Friday.

With EU institutions keen to get €138 billion - €9 billion more than member states want to give - the meeting is expected to drag into Saturday morning.

The big political event of the week will be a debate with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and MEPs at the EU parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.

Merkel - who has emerged as the Union's top decision-maker in recent months - will set our her views on the future of Europe and on the financial crisis. But with the plenary chamber closed due to cracks in the ceiling, the venue remains "to be confirmed."

Later the same day, Merkel goes to London to see if British leader David Cameron really plans to veto the seven-year EU budget deal.

Dalligate rumbles on

The parliament's budgetary control committee will on Tuesday talk to the supervisory board of the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf.

The hearing comes after the board President resigned over irregularities in the case of ex-commissioner John Dalli and tobacco bribes.

Dalli's potential replacement - Maltese foreign minister Tonio Borg - will also meet EU parliament chief Martin Schulz on Wednesday ahead of his official hearing on 13 November.

In terms of general financial hygiene, the European Court of Auditors, anti-fraud commissioner Algirdas Semeta, commission accountant Manfred Kraff and budgetary control MEPs will on Tuesday examine 2011 EU spending.

The commission will on Wednesday unveil its latest economic forecasts.

It will also publish non-binding ideas on visa-facilitation for EU tourism (Wednesday) and on the European car-making industry (Thursday).

Meanwhile, Catalan leader Artur Mas will be in the EU capital on Wednesday to discuss the northern Spanish region's future.

The debate - organised by think tank Friends of Europe - will take place ahead of Catalonia's elections on 25 November and amid speculation on whether breakaway territories can automatically become EU member states.

Global agenda

On the global agenda, top EU officials, French PM Francois Hollande, Italian PM Mario Monti and up to 50 other European and regional leaders will on Monday go to Vientiane, Laos for trade-dominated EU-Asia talks.

But the main event will be the election of the next leader of the world's lone superpower - the US presidential vote on Tuesday.

Polls say most Europeans would like to see Barack Obama stay in office four more years. But for the American citizens casting the ballots, surveys put Obama neck-and-neck against Mormon tycoon Mitt Romney.