EU leaders converge on Brussels for budget talks
The special European Council meeting will see the bloc's 27 heads of state and government thrash out the size and structure of the EU budget for the period 2021-2027.
Ahead of the summit, there appeared to be consensus that current proposals for the EU budget of the next decade falls short of what is needed.
Moreover, the European Parliament, Commission and Council are still negotiating how and where the money from EU funds should be allocated - for example, the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy.
An added headache for leaders from the 27 nations is Brexit and the loss of contributions from the UK: this has left a sizeable hole in the budget for the next seven-year spending period.
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Prime Ministers and heads of state will have to handle monetary demands from across the board, ranging from tackling environmental issues to farming and regional funds.
NGOs representing the interests of some of these sectors have their own “wish list” for the summiteers.
From the environment community they include Markus Trilling, finance and subsidies policy coordinator at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.
“The money is there, but not yet the political will to spend it wisely. The EU budget must catalyse changes that will benefit citizens and the environment" Markus Trilling, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe
He said, “The money is there, but not yet the political will to spend it wisely. The EU budget must catalyse changes that will benefit citizens and the environment. The current budget proposals are not in line with the European Green Deal promises.”
Raphael Hanoteaux, EU policy officer for CEE Bankwatch Network, echoed these sentiments, saying, “EU leaders must focus on the quality - not the quantity - of budget spending.”
Cohesion policy has traditionally accounted for a large part of the EU budget but some fear this will be targeted for cuts as EU leaders start what could be marathon talks on the next budget.
Championing cohesion policy are member regions of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR),a body that lobbies for some of the most outermost regions in Europe.
A CPMR statement said these CPMR regions are concerned about “the severe cuts to cohesion policy” in a proposal tabled at the weekend by Council President Charles Michel.
The Commission, whose position is endorsed by Parliament, has asked for €1.135 trillion over seven years but most Member States insist that the total budget size should be €1.095 trillion.
The CPMR, it said, “calls on EU leaders to avoid this scenario given the harm that the cuts would imply.”
Another area that has always commanded a massive proportion of EU coffers is agriculture, and farmers from different regions will bring their tractors to Brussels' EU district on Thursday to “demand equal treatment and a fairer common agricultural policy.”
The European Milk Board, which represents dairy farmers, will join the demo together with producers from Lithuanian, Latvia and Estonia.
“EU leaders must focus on the quality - not the quantity - of budget spending” Raphael Hanoteaux, CEE Bankwatch Network
Meanwhile, raising public RD&I investments “is essential to deliver impact for all European citizens,” says the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations.
“The EU 3 percent target of GDP investment in R&D should not be questioned: the next MFF should rather aim at making it a reality.”
Such demands come in the wake of a resolution adopted by Parliament earlier this week on the budget.
This starkly states that the proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) “falls well below the European Parliament’s expectations and those of the citizens.”
Parliament has its own “MFF/Own Resources” negotiating team. This consists of Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE), chair of the Committee on Budgets; Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), MFF co-rapporteur; Margarida Marques (S&D, PT), MFF co-rapporteur; Jose Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), Own Resources co-rapporteur; Valerie Haver (RENEW, FR), Own Resources co-rapporteur and Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, DE).
This week, Parliament’s President David Sassoli, speaking about the differences between what the EU wants and what is proposed by Member States, conceded, “We are still far from an acceptable proposal.”
It is for this reason that some predict the summit could last several days before any agreement is found and Alban Maggiar, who heads SMEunited, which represents small businesses at the EU level, warns, “There is no doubt that finding a balanced compromise on a future Multiannual Financial Framework for the European Union will be difficult.”
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