Thursday

23rd May 2019

Countries ask for budget flexibility over migrant crisis

  • Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean sea. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU countries facing extra costs due to an influx of migrants are trying to obtain budget flexibility from the EU. But other countries and EU officials meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (5 October) have been wary in their response.

Austria, supported by Italy, Malta and Luxembourg, the country that currently chairs the Council of EU ministers, said that the EU should be less strict with the budget deficit of countries who will spend more than expected to face the migrant crisis.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Some countries in the eurozone are really affected by the cost of the refugees," Austria's finance minister Hans Joerg Schelling said before a Eurogroup meeting on Monday. "We only want, as is usual for cases of a catastrophe, these costs to be removed."

"I don't think it would be right if we said we were unable to reach a zero structural deficit due to the costs of the refugee crisis and then still got punished by the Commission," Schelling explained.

"Why not?", Malta's minister Edward Sciclun said when asked if he supported the idea. "It’s a big burden for the countries affected, Malta included but particularly Italy, and we should help in any way we can".

Other countries like Greece, Hungary, Croatia and Germany could also be face a significant impact on their public finances.

EU budget rules allow member states to avoid budget disciplinary procedure in the case of exceptional circumstances.

The European Commission said it would present proposals on the issue but finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Monday it was "not on the agenda" yet.

"We are conducting a legal, financial and economical analysis and we will be ready to discuss it when the moment comes," he told reporters in Luxembourg.

Case-by-case approach

Some countries expressed reluctance to decree a specific rule over the migrant situation.

"Our opinion is that we should be very careful," Belgian minister Johan Van Overtveldt said, warning that rules should not be changed "whenever something happens in the world."

Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble said he was concerned that countries that "have not been particularly involved in the refugee question so far" try to benefit from a circumstantial flexibility.

In any case, the Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem insisted that "there are major differences between countries. For some countries it has a very large impact also in budgetary terms, and on other countries it has hardly any impact."

"It certainly should be a case-by-case approach," he said.

Off the record, officials also suggested that granting budget flexibility could distract member states from fiscal discipline.

The cost of migrants "is less of a huge issue if you think that it amounts to 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP," a eurozone official said. "The really decisive issue would be: are you slipping into a deficit deficit procedure because of this cost."

EU expects 3mn migrants by 2017

The Commission expects 3 million people to come to Europe by 2017, in its first assessment of the economic costs and benefits of the migrant crisis.

News in Brief

  1. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  2. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal
  3. UK sacked defence secretary backs Johnson for leader
  4. Dutch voter turnout so far slightly down on 2014
  5. Report: Hungary's Fidesz 'bought' Belgian official
  6. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  7. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  8. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Polling booths open in UK's limbo EU election
  2. Dutch PM puts EU exit on agenda with election gamble
  3. EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal
  4. EU should stop an insane US-Iran war
  5. EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday
  6. Dutch MPs: EU sanctions should bear Magnitsky name
  7. Far-right hate speech flooded Facebook ahead of EU vote
  8. Key details on how Europeans will vote

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us