EU and Member States at loggerheads over long-term budget

The Commission has asked for €1.135 trillion over seven years but Member States insist that the total budget size should be €1.095 trillion.
credit: Adobe Stock

By Martin Banks

19 Feb 2020

The issue will come to a head on Thursday when EU leaders meet in Brussels for a crunch summit to discuss the budget, or MMF as it is commonly known.

Ahead of the meeting, the European Parliament has pitched into the row again, saying that despite months of talks there was “still much to do” on the EU's new multi-annual budget.

The Commission, faced with filling a massive budget hole after Brexit, first made its proposal back in May 2018.


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But on Tuesday, following a day of meetings on the budget, David Sassoli, Parliament’s President, issued a statement saying, “At the moment we remain €230 billion apart.”

He was referring to the difference between the position of the EU, including Parliament, and that of the Council, or Member States’, preferred figure.

Sassoli said, “In the two meetings we had today with Charles Michel we confirmed Parliament’s unanimous position on the draft he presented last Saturday. We are still far from an acceptable proposal. We hope the Council will come back with a more ambitious version capable of starting the negotiations."

He said the next MFF is “very far from what is needed to adequately finance the old and new programmes of the EU.”

“We are still far from an acceptable proposal. We hope the Council will come back with a more ambitious version capable of starting the negotiations” David Sassoli, Parliament President

“The figures do not differ much from the Finnish presidency's proposal on which Parliament has already expressed itself clearly and with a very large majority.”

“It is a proposal that contradicts the proclaimed ambitions on three priorities that the Member States - not Parliament - have placed at the centre of their vision: climate, digitalisation and the geopolitical dimension.

“It is a proposal that risks leaving Europe lagging not only behind its own objectives, but also other actors on the international scene, such as China and the US.

“It is a proposal that goes in the direction of those who think that Brexit means ‘less Europe’ - and therefore ‘less budget.’ But in the face of today's challenges we do not need less Europe; we need a stronger Europe with a strong budget in the interest of citizens. This is the message that Parliament wants to send to the summit.”

It is hoped that EU government leaders will adopt their position at the summit later this week but, with so much uncertainty, this remains unclear as does the number of days the meeting will last. Some are predicting it could even run to four days.

“Should this proposal be adopted, the Green Deal will be at risk. [Charles] Michel's proposal fails to provide the reorientation needed to align the EU budget with the challenges of this century” Philippe Lamberts, Greens co-leader

Speaking about the Council’s budget proposal, Philippe Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens/EFA in Parliament, said, “Should this proposal be adopted, the Green Deal will be at risk. Michel's proposal fails to provide the reorientation needed to align the EU budget with the challenges of this century.”

“Europe must become a global champion in ensuring our societies fit within planetary boundaries, by tackling climate change, the collapse in biodiversity and the exhaustion of natural resources. Instead, Michel keeps the budget on a course inherited from the past.”

The Belgian said the 1.074 percent of gross national income proposed by Michel is “far below” the 1.3 percent demanded by Parliament.

“Europe's economy is confronted with a structural shortfall in investment. In a context of negative interest rates, the EU would be remiss not to seize the opportunity to boost investment for the public good.”

“The proposal keeps the stranglehold of Member States on the EU budget, as it still deprives the EU of its own budgetary resources. The only own-resource being considered is a meagre tax on plastics and then only in a distant future.”

“We believe that the proposal put forward by the Council President falls short not only of Parliament’s expectations but also those of European citizens” Manfred Weber, EPP Group leader

Elsewhere, the EPP, Parliament’s biggest group, has also expressed its “discontent and disappointment” over Michel’s proposal.

EPP Group leader Manfred Weber said, “We believe that the proposal put forward by the Council President falls short not only of Parliament’s expectations but also those of European citizens. The proposal lacks ambition as it does not provide the Union with the necessary means to implement its priorities.”

“Member States, the Commission and Parliament are constantly calling on the EU to do more to fight climate change, to better support research and innovation, to provide more scholarships to our students and to adequately protect our borders; in order to do that, we need a more ambitious budget, not a smaller one. This proposal endangers the implementation of all the Union’s objectives.”

The NGO community has also responded to the various proposals, with Emily Wigens, EU Director at The ONE Campaign, saying the Council plan “presents fresh cuts to the EU’s external spending by 6.45%, amounting to €7.02 billion” compared to the Commission's suggestion. The proposal also sets out cuts to sub-Saharan Africa worth €1.36 billion, she said.

“The EU cannot cut investments in EU aid, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, and expect to deliver on its commitments to end extreme poverty and inequality by 2030” Emily Wigens, EU Director at The ONE Campaign

She added, “Michel’s proposal sends a worrying signal about the EU’s leadership in the fight against extreme poverty. The MFF should be a turning point in the EU’s ability to tackle the greatest challenges of our generation, but if Member States accept this proposal they’ll be turning their backs on them.”

“The EU cannot cut investments in EU aid, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, and expect to deliver on its commitments to end extreme poverty and inequality by 2030. Seven out of 10 Europeans want the EU to prioritise life-saving aid, but despite the talk of delivering a budget in line with citizens’ expectations, it’s clear that these are empty buzzwords. This proposal will diminish the EU’s ability to influence the world and be the driving force for progress citizens expect it to be.”

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