28th Oct 2021

EU budget skirmishes begin as eight countries attack Brussels' proposals

  • Dowgielewicz said the paper 'doesn’t really influence the course of negotiations' (Photo: pimousse3000)

The traditional skirmishing over the EU’s next long term budget kicked off on Monday (12 September) with member states complaining about the size of the sums proposed and the European Commission countering that it should be allowed to raise its own money.

Eight member states said in a position paper the proposed 2014-2020 budget expected member states to dig too deep into their pockets at a time when they are imposing austerity measures at home to counter the economic crisis.

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"Member states are making considerable financial efforts to support Europe and at the same time are undertaking tough consolidation efforts”, said the letter, signed among others by EU heavyweights UK, France and Germany. "European public spending cannot be exempt from these considerable national efforts."

The paper emerged just before Europe ministers were due to have a first formal discussion on Brussels’ June proposal to increase the bloc's long-term spending by 5 percent to €971.52 billion over the seven-year period, with €1,025 billion pledged in commitments.

EU budget commissioner Jan Lewandowski countered that the June proposal was framed by the commission as a budget in response to the ongoing economic crisis.

“We are responding to the question of national contributions by asking for and proposing new own resources,” said the commissioner, referring to suggestions in the proposals for a tax on financial transactions and an EU-wide value-added tax.

Bright idea?

He said member states should be ready to accept this "bright idea".

The paper, also signed by Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, is the first salvo in what is - EU budget history shows - likely to be a battle that continues to the 11th hour, that is late into 2013.

Britain, organiser of the budget refuseniks, was quick to publicise its success in getting more capitals on board from the original five-strong list of complainants at the end of last year.

"The important news is that the coalition has got larger", David Lidington, minister for European affairs, said.

Polish EU minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz dismissed the paper as being par for the course for the start of EU budget negotiations, however

The text revealed "absolutely nothing surprising" he said, adding that it "doesn’t really influence the course of negotiations".

Both he and Lewandowski pointed out that the text contained no figures.

A source from signatory capitals indicated that all eight countries considered the budget needed to be pared down by €120 billion, but disagreed where the cuts should be made - a division likely to be exploited by the commission.

The signatories are also irritated by parts of the budget they feel they have no control over. The text specifically said the budget should "cover all funding in a complete and transparent way".

This refers to the further €58.3 billion for crisis funds that is not formally part of the budget.

"It is nothing new to have the development fund and flexibility fund outside the budget because it is about potential expenditure", said Lewandowski.

Brussels seeks financial tax in new EU budget

Future EU spending is set to increase, focusing marginally less on agriculture and more on research, education and transport, according to European Commission proposals for the next seven-year budgetary period (2014-2020). Brussels also wants a financial transaction tax to help fill EU coffers.

MEPs want budget increase for 2012

Members of the European Parliament's budget committee on Wednesday adopted their position on the 2012 EU budget, asking for a 4.2 percent increase compared to last year, a demand likely to be whittled down in upcoming negotiations with member states.

EU parliament reminds governments of new budget powers

As member-state wrangling over the next multi-annual budget gets underway, parliament is keen to remind governments that the time-honoured tradition of sleepy-eyed leaders announcing a deal within spitting distance of the deadline will no longer be possible.

Britain's EU rebate called into question

The largest party in the European Parliament has said Britain's annual rebate from the EU ought to be reconsidered due to London's "selfish" behaviour at last week's summit. Meanwhile, EU Commission President Barroso has also strongly criticised London.

Poland tests meaning of EU oath on neutrality

The Polish government has told voters that its man in Brussels, Janusz Lewandowski, will help it get more EU money, testing the meaning of the budget commissioner's oath of neutrality.

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