Again here we are. The 27 European leaders are expected to gather tomorrow in Brussels to agree on 1 trillion euro for the MFF 2014-2020 after talks ended in a deadlock last November. Leaders seem to be optimistic but threats are behind the corner. The UK and other countries are unwilling to accept the last Van Rompuy proposal which already foresees cuts for 80 billions euro to the EC original proposal. If no deal is reached, EU officials said an agreement is unlikely before European Parliament elections scheduled for June 2014. That would force the EU into a system of provisional annual budgets from next year, and lead to a hiatus in long-term funding programmes in areas such as research and infrastructure spending.
“We will do everything to find an agreement at the next summit, but conditions are not there yet,” Hollande told reporters yesterday, flanked by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. Previously also the Chancellor Angel Merkel said to be “optimistic that on the question of the long-term EU budget, we will be successful, that we will get an agreement. In front of the MEPs in Strasbourg, Hollande said that there was still time to reach a deal before the summit starts on Thursday. “I hope that the system that will follow will be fairer”, echoed later on Monti.
At the end of 2012 European leaders had opposed the EC proposal of a 6.8% increase in the 6-years budget seen as disproportionate in crisis time. Member States would go for a 2.79 increase, some even less. In an extraordinary European Council meeting in November Van Rompuy tried to reach an agreement cutting the EC proposal of 80 billions above all in the research and innovation and agriculture chapter. But his proposal seems not go far enough. On Wednesday, Italy’s EU affairs minister said he expected Van Rompuy to propose a further 15-20 billion euros cut in commitments, on top of the roughly 80 billion euros already trimmed from the original proposal from the European Commission. Italy, like Germany, is a net contributors, for this reason he called for a reform in the system of rebates and discounts “which currently benefits some countries and is financed by others”.
But the main threat comes from London. David Cameron, in his speech last week, warned that something in the EU is rotten and should change. According to him, “more of the same” was the basis of the problems. Then, as everybody knows, he promised the British a referendum on UK’s membership in the Union if he is to be re-elected in 2015.
Two days ago French MEP Alain Lamassoure, president of the EP’s budget committee, calls EU budget negotiatiors a group of 27 Margaret Thatchers, each one wanting their money back. In his view “this egocentrism annoys the European Parliament”. Indeed some of most critical MPs threaten to veto the compromise.
Again here we are. Let’s start talking.