Sunday

21st Jul 2019

Germany and France lead EU budget concerns

  • Commission wants to increase post-Brexit budget by almost €200bn (Photo: Images_of_Money)

Germany has voiced concern on fair burden-sharing in the next EU budget, while France is outraged by proposed cuts in farm aid.

The bloc's most powerful states joined other complaints from northern countries, after the European Commission unveiled its post-Brexit finance plan on Wednesday (2 May).

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

  • Aid for EU farmers to go down by five percent (Photo: Pixabay)

"We are ready to take responsibility for strengthening the European Union - but this requires a fair burden-sharing of all member states," the German foreign and finance ministers Heiko Mass and Olaf Scholz said in a joint statement in reaction to the proposals.

The commission spending plan for 2021-2028 "would considerably increase the additional burden on Germany" by €10bn a year, they added.

Germany, the biggest net contributor to the EU treasury, is also reluctant to use its wealth to pay for deeper monetary union, for instance, by creating a eurozone deposit guarantee scheme.

Its warning on burden-sharing echoed discontent in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden - wealthy states who will also see their EU contributions go up after Britain leaves the bloc next year.

"It is completely wrong that you want to increase the budget even though the number of member states falls from 28 to 27 … We'll fight really hard to reduce the bill," Danish finance minister Kristian Jensen said.

Building on earlier comments by the Danish prime minister, Jensen said Copenhagen did not want EU cohesion funds, which subsidise poor regions in mostly eastern Europe, to grow.

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok added his voice to the Danish PM's hostile reaction.

"The current proposal is unacceptable for the Dutch government. The EU income is declining due to departure of the United Kingdom. If income falls, we will need to spend less," he said.

Swedish finance minister Magdalena Andersson flat-out rejected the commission's proposal that her country should increase its contribution by almost €1.5bn a year.

"This is an unreasonable proposal. We cannot accept this," she said.

"Sweden has contributed an enormous amount, partly as a net contributor to the European Union and partly because we have taken disproportionate responsibility for the 2015 refugee crisis," she added.

French outrage

The commission aims to levy some €1.3tr from member states for the joint pot in the next budget period, a €192bn increase on the pre-Brexit amount.

It aims to spend more on border control, migration policy, defence integration, research and innovation, and education, but to cut aid to farmers by five percent and to cap direct subsidies for even the biggest farms at €60,000 - an idea which met with sharp criticism from France, the largest net beneficiary of EU agricultural funding.

"Such a drastic, massive and blind cut is simply unthinkable," Stephane Travert, the French agriculture minister, said.

"It poses an unprecedented risk to farms' viability by seriously impacting farmers' incomes, for whom direct aid is an essential safety net. France cannot accept any decline in direct income for farmers," the minister added.

Irish farmers' groups also indicated the kind of pressure that the Irish government is likely to come under to make sure that its agricultural sector does not lose out in the coming years.

"Farmers have had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers need a CAP [Common Agriculture Policy] increase in line with inflation," Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said.

The Brussels-based farmers' pressure group, COPA-COGECA, also expressed "strong disappointment with the cuts". "A strong budget is needed for a sustainable, modern EU agriculture sector delivering on various fronts," it said.

Poland sanguine

EU cohesion funds are also to go down by five percent in the next budget period, in a move that could see Poland lose as much as €10bn a year in subsidies even if the commission does not withhold any funds under proposed new disciplinary measures for member states that violate EU values.

Polish ministers and MEPs remained sanguine over the commission plan, however.

Ryszard Legutko, an MEP from Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party claimed the new EU budget would be "more beneficial for Poland" due to the "activism of the Polish government".

Zbigniew Kuzmiuk, another PiS euro-deputy, downplayed the threat of the commission disciplinary powers despite an ongoing clash between Brussels and Warsaw on Polish judicial reforms.

"It can't be the case that some official in Brussels will take a decision on suspending, for example, hundreds of millions of euros, because he heard that courts aren't working properly in Poland, Romania, Hungary or somewhere else," he said.

The Estonian leader, Juri Ratas, noted that his country's economic growth was an EU success story of the kind the new commission budget should not put at risk.

"Estonia is a good example of how EU membership has significantly supported the development of the country. Since joining the EU, Estonia has been among those benefitting the most from the shared budget," he said.

"The larger the EU budget is, the better the possibilities for funding to reach our joint goals. Estonia is willing to increase our contribution to the EU budget," Ratas added.

Juncker seeks budget whip on unruly states

EU officials want discretionary powers to suspend funds from states that violate treaty values, in a bold power grab amid likely clashes with Hungary and Poland.

Analysis

Hogan's carrot: reform to soften CAP cuts

The European Commission is dangling the prospect to farmers of being able to dodge financial cuts in the upcoming EU budget – but only if national governments agree to a mandatory redistribution of subsidies.

Commission launches seven-year budget 'bargaining'

While the European Commission's post-Brexit EU budget proposal for 2021-2027 calls for a less-than-expected increase in spending, prime ministers of net payer countries have already called the starting proposal "unacceptable".

Interview

EU regions chief fires warning shot over funding cuts

Committee of the Regions president Karl-Heinz Lambertz tells EUobserver why he is not happy with proposed cuts to the EU's cohesion policy. France has already spoken up against Common Agriculture Policy, but who will speak for the regions?

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

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. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us