European leaders reached an agreement on the EU multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 on Friday after 24 hours of intense negotiations. The deal resulted in a cut of 12 billions euros from the November Van Rompuy proposal which means that the EU budget is reduced for the first time in history. Indeed the 2014-2020 EU budget is smaller than it was in 2007-2013 in real terms as it goes down to 1% from 1.12% of EU gross national income (GNI). Now the European Parliament is due to vote on it but MEPs brace for fight.
The Multiannual Financial Framework agreed by the 27s sees €960 billion for commitments and €908.4 billion for payments which means a theoretical gap of more than 50 billions. The compromise keeps agricultural and cohesion funds whilst cuts down infrastructure, bureaucracy and scientific research. In details, the cuts agreed fell mainly on spending for cross-border transport, energy and telecoms projects, which were reduced by more than 11 billion euros. The UK managed to have the EU budget cut and to keep the 3.5 billion a year rebate. Also the Netherlands increase its rebate (from 650 to 695 million), so did Sweden (from 160 to 185) and Austria (60 million), while Denmark got a cheque of 134 billion.
“We simply could not ignore the extremely difficult economic realities across Europe, so it had to be a leaner budget. For the first time ever, there is a real cut compared to the last multiannual financial framework”. Van Rompuy said at the press conference following the summit after his solemn tweed “Deal done!”. From the Commission, President Barroso said he was disappointed, but understood the logic.
The European leaders seemed pretty satisfied. “The agreement is a good agreement as it gives predictability for investors to create growth and jobs,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at her press conference, while French President François Hollande made some irony: “I would say if I were alone, no, it would have been different”. On the contrary British Prime Minister David Cameron came back home like the real winner of the summit whose supporter hailed the outcome as an historic victory comparing it to Margaret Thatcher’s winning of concessions from Europe in the 1980s.
Now it is the turn of the European Parliament. “The European Parliament cannot accept today’s deal in the European Council as it is. We regret that Mr Van Rompuy did not talk and negotiate with us in the last months,” the leaders of the four largest political groups stated in a press release published before the summit ended. During the summit, a tweet by the EP President Martin Schulz echoed for hours amongst journalists at the Council: “My signature is required for definitive adoption of budget, I cannot, will not and may not accept what amount to deficit budgets”. It means that the MEPs have no doubt: the agreement by the 27s is not acceptable. “In their vigour to defend obsolete rebates and shortsighted national interests, they are completely undermining Europe and the prospect of the EU budget playing a meaningful role in response to the current crisis,” Greens/EFA co-president Dany Cohn-Bendit said. “The cobbled-together nature of this compromise for the EU’s coming 7 year budgetary period – falling short both in structure and overall ambition – will make it impossible for the EU budget to serve as a real instrument for relaunching our economy and promoting sustainable economic recovery,“ he added.
Soon the European Parliament will vote on the agreement. Will MEPs be so brave and coherent to follow the EP line and to reject the proposal by member States or national interests will prevail again? The answer is coming up…