Germany wants EU budget summit in February
The German government is pressing for a second attempt to reach a deal on the EU multi-annual budget during the next EU summit scheduled for 7-8 February.
But EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has not yet put it on the agenda of the meeting, participants in a briefing organised by the European Movement in Berlin were informed on Thursday (10 January).
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One reason for the hesitation may be that Italian elections are due in February, with the fate of Prime Minister Mario Monti still unclear.
But an EU official told this website that electoral considerations were not the main reason, so much as the wish to call a summit only when there is near certainty that a deal can be reached.
The seven-year budget is aimed at avoiding yearly money quarrels among member states, as was the case in the 1980s. The current seven-year budget of just over €1 trillion - spent mostly on agriculture and projects in poorer member states - runs out at the end of this year.
A first attempt to reach a deal failed in November as the group of net payers led by Germany and Britain demanded further cuts, while the "friends of cohesion" in the south and east wanted more money.
Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Van Rompuy said a deal in February is "preferable," but suggested the budget summit may happen later in spring.
"The November council didn't end in failure. We had no agreement, but there were sufficient points of convergence to say that a deal is possible. I stick to that analysis. We are working hard to get an agreement. We said in November 'in the course of next spring, but preferably in February, if possible'."
Speaking the same day in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after talks with her Maltese counterpart that they discussed the EU budget issue and they both "want clarity quickly."
"We need a seven-year budget, not that we go back to yearly budgets," she said.
For his part, Maltese PM Lawrence Gonzi said "we'll meet in February on the topic" and that it is in the EU's interest to show budgetary predictability for the markets.
EU diplomats expect the final summit agenda to be announced next week.
If the 7-8 February deadline is too early, Van Rompuy can still call an extraordinary summit later in February or wait for the next EU meeting on 14-15 March.
Time is pressing - once a final deal is agreed on who pays how much into the pot and who gets what out of it, more than 700 legislative acts have to be passed in the European Parliament before the new budget framework kicks off, on 1 January 2014.
If no agreement is reached in time, the 2013 budget will be rolled over to the following year, but poorer EU states stand to be the biggest losers, as most of their money is dependent on the seven-year planning.