Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

Bilaterals, funding tweaks and 'standing around' to mark EU budget summit

  • Barroso (l) and Van Rompuy will meet each of the 27 member state leaders during the course of Thursday - then the summit will begin (Photo: Council of European Union)

Officials in Brussels are preparing for what is expected to be a lengthy, complex and quite probably ill-tempered summit on the EU's 2014-2020 budget. But optimism about reaching a deal has revived to an extent.

EU leaders will sit down for the summit meeting at 8pm Brussels time on Thursday evening (22 November).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Each of them will already have had a face-to-face meeting with EU president Herman Van Rompuy and EU commission president Jose-Manuel Barroso earlier during the day.

"Everyone is unhappy which gives us the impression that a compromise is possible," remarked one diplomat, referring to a proposal circulated by Van Rompuy last week which chops €20 billion from the payment commitments made (€993.6bn) for the current seven year budget.

"Van Rompuy's people have been very clear that they have a large range of possible tweaks up their sleeves to sort out individual problems," said another diplomat.

Germany - with whom Van Rompuy is said to have worked closely on the proposal - is seen as relatively content. As is Poland.

But plenty of others have directly or implicitly threatened to use their veto. They include the UK, France, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and, lately, Italy.

Specific grumbles include Hungary complaining about losing out on cohesion funds because its GDP has sunk (there is a GDP-linked ceiling for the subsidies), Italy worrying that its contribution to the budget will be too high, Spain wanting more help for its high unemployment rate and Denmark angling for a rebate.

In addition, "the French are not happy at all," said one diplomat, noting that Paris is irritated by proposed cuts to farm and regional subsidies.

Paris is also in the unusual position of not being allied with Germany ahead of the talks. Prior to the last budget deal in 2005, both countries had stitched up agricultural spending between them.

Much of the focus ahead of the talks has focused on the UK. London has been shouting loudest about using its veto, with British MPs last month agreeing that the EU budget must see a cut in real terms.

Connecting Europe and EU officials' salaries

But a mooted attempt to agree a 26-countries only budget - without the UK - is seen as unlikely because it would be both thoroughly complicated and politically damaging.

In addition, the UK has indicated that the Van Rompuy proposal is going in a direction it likes.

"There is slightly more optimism that a deal can be possible," said one diplomat. "I think there is a real prospect of agreement," noted another.

The cautiously positive outlook is also due to the fact that politicians are conscious of the effects of a summit ending acrimoniously.

Difficult decisions on further economic union, due in December, would not be any easier after a big budget fall out.

Meanwhile, Van Rompuy's people are seen as having two paths for manuoeuvre.

One could be chopping money for the €46 billion connecting Europe facility (a pet project of Barroso on boosting transport, energy and internet networks) to which member states are not particularly attached. The other could be further cutting the EU's administrative budget (EU officials' salaries).

"There is a feeling more can be done, not least because of what happened to public sector pay in member states," said a diplomat.

Van Rompuy is due to present a modified proposal on Thursday evening.

"After that who knows. There'll be bilaterals and a lot of hanging around for most of us," continued the diplomat.

Opinion

EU budget: Don't cut the left arm to save the right

EU citizens will be the biggest losers of the power struggle on the Union's budget for 2014-2020, as any cuts will stifle growth and jobs, write MEPs Joseph Daul and Reimer Boege.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen party in new EU fraud allegations
  2. May to end rights of EU nationals after Article 50 triggered
  3. Nato warns against Armenia-Azerbaijan 'escalation'
  4. EU: No military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh war
  5. EU adopts visa-free brake mechanism
  6. Trump and Brexit drew on same resources
  7. Romanian protestors form EU flag at anti-government rally
  8. Over 3,500 attacks on refugees in Germany: report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFA Deadly Journey for Children: The Migration Route From North Africa to Europe
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsFreedom of Association and Expression Under Threat in Kazakhstan
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  4. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  6. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  7. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  8. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  9. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  10. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen