EU budget commissioner defends payment adjustments

It is member states, not the commission, that are responsible for budget contributions, argues Jacek Dominik.

By Jon Benton

Jon Benton is Political Engagement Manager at The Parliament Magazine

27 Oct 2014

Ahead of Wednesday's budgetary evaluations, outgoing budget commissioner Jacek Dominik faced questions regarding last week's budget revelations, most notably the requirement of the UK to pay €2.1bn.

These adjustments are the result of recalculations, carried out annually, to assess member state contributions to the EU budget and to rebalance contributions through deductions and refunds if necessary.

Member state contributions are based upon a calculation agreed by the relevant national statistical authority and the European agency Eurostat, with member states responsible for providing the data themselves. The calculation is a reflection of the country's gross national income (GNI).

Dominik was keen to emphasise that "this was not the responsibility of the commission, it was only the member states, and it has been [this way] for years and have never been any questions raised regarding this prior to now".

But, according to Dominik, "this year is quite particular, because a lot of open issues that were discussed with member states in the past have been closed. This means a lot of reservations [that] member states had with the Eurostat have been solved".

Moreover this year's calculations also take in to account how member state economies have grown since 1995, while also including previously unreported or under-reported black economic activity, going someway to explain the surprising results published by the commission.

Dominik defended the contribution adjustments by saying that "this is only a snapshot of the budgetary situation" and arguing that it did not take into account "other charges and refunds from the year such as the UK budget rebate".

He also pointed to other budgetary adjustments that, using the same method, would return €500m to the UK, questioning the rationale behind the UK government's criticism.

Furthermore, he was concerned as to why member states such as the UK had not raised any issues beforehand as there had been many opportunities to share concerns regarding the adjustment to the EU budgetary contribution calculation.

He said UK representatives had "never raised the issue with me… up to this moment there was no single signal from the UK administration that they had a problem with this figure".

When asked what would happen should a member state refuse to pay, Dominik refused to be drawn on the possibility, saying, "according to the rules we expect the figures that were reached to be paid on 1 December". And in a follow-up question, regarding whether there was any room for renegotiation, such as paying the money in instalments, he argued that, "if you open this act for future negotiations, you open up a Pandora's box".

However, last week UK prime minister David Cameron called the contribution adjustments, "completely unjustified", and, "completely unacceptable".

His comments also suggested that he had been unaware of the consequences of these budgetary adjustments, saying, "to suddenly present a bill like this for such a vast sum of money with so little time to pay it… is an unacceptable way to treat one of the biggest contributors to the European Union".



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