The general sentiment, among the richer states of theEU is that of revolt, at least that’s how the Financial Times opens up its report on the reactions on the EU Budget proposals. The Netherlands, Austria, and Denmark on Wednesday attacked Brussels’ plans to increase the EU’s budget to €1.25tn over the next seven years and eliminate rebates. They have been used for decades to return money to states that foot a disproportionate cost of EU spending. On the other hand, many Governments have not stated their views yet. Günther Oettinger, the EU’s budget commissioner, said he was confident that most EU governments were willing to support the commission’s plans. “There is a majority [of governments] that has not said anything and I think that many of them think our proposal is more than measured and they will accept [paying] slightly more,” he said.
The EU has been refunding around €6bn a year to the likes of Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark. With Britain’s EU exit leaving an annual budget hole of up to €17bn, Brussels wants to scrap this complex system of “correction” mechanisms over the next five years.
“As far as the Netherlands is concerned, this proposal is not an acceptable outcome,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a statement. “The Netherlands sees the Commission’s proposal as leaving the Netherlands paying too high a share of the bill. This also affects other countries. A smaller EU as a result of Brexit should also mean a smaller budget. That entails making clearer choices and spending less. “Under the proposal, the costs of funding the budget are not shared fairly. Brexit is already set to hit the Netherlands’ economy hard. This MFF proposal imposes a disproportionately high bill on top of that.” Rutte said that during negotiations, “the Netherlands will push for a modern budget, in which costs are shared fairly. There is still a lot of negotiating ahead of us.”
Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen questioned the size of the Commission’s €1.279 trillion proposal for the future EU budget — which would kick in after the U.K. leaves the bloc.
Poland’s government, through Konrad Szymanski said that Poland does not see the proposal to tie EU budget to Rule of Law as confrontational towards Poland,” said, Warsaw’s EU affairs minister. “The principle of transparency — in spending and allocation of funds — is close to our hearts, there is no controversy here.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said he would have liked the budget “not to be 1.1 percent but 1.3 percent” of the gross national income, adding that the Parliament will “do its utmost” to defend its position on the reduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Tajani said he was satisfied with the proposal on the EU’s own resources that is “in line” with the Parliament’s position. He also thanked the Commission head for discussing the budget proposals with MEPs before holding a press conference, saying he thought it is important to discuss such matters first with those who are called to vote on the proposals.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative European People’s Party called the proposals “measured but ambitious.” Weber said he hopes that in Council, they need to specify “where the cut should be made” — when they talk about figures — “they must say they should be taken away from.” Weber added that “we as the EPP wish to wrap this up ahead of the parliamentary elections” and avoid “cash.”
The President of the Committee of the Regions, said in a tweet that increasing the EU budget goes into the right direction but not far enough. Now more than ever, we need an EU of political ambition with the means to deliver: an increase to 1.11% of GNI is modest at a time when Europe needs to be bold. Karl Heinz Lambertz said that Cohesion policy risks being fragmented & centralised. The proposal to cut cohesion funding downsizes the only EU policy that brings true European added-value to EU regions & cities.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats leader Guy Verhofstadt called the budget proposal “not a revolution” but “a break with the past.” “For the first time I see serious cuts where it’s necessary and new money,” he said, citing Erasmus and border management. Verhofstadt also said that another “break with the past,” was the new own resources proposal. “The Council has every time refused to do so,” he said.
Italian Five Star Movement called for “a strong reaction from Italy against the European budget proposal.” The planned cut to cohesion funds “are unacceptable as they will disproportionately hit the poorest areas in Italy,” MEP Laura Agea, spokesperson for the party in the European Parliament, told La Repubblica. “According to our estimates, it means €3 billion less will be invested. We also ask that the level of youth unemployment be included — along with GDP — as a criteria for assigning EU [cohesion] funding.”
France’s agriculture ministry said it fiercely opposes Common Agricultural Policy cuts under the Commission’s proposal. The plan includes an overall 5 percent cut to the policy, while decreasing the amount of subsidies paid to farmers directly by 4 percent. Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert said that he would “firmly defend — without respite — a budget that is up to the tasks that European agriculture has to face.”
Former UKIP leader and MEP Nigel Farage said the budget proposal “shows the extent to which this project is in denial. They’re not reducing the budget because one of the biggest member states is leaving, they’re actually increasing it.”
The League of European Research Universities described the close to €100bn proposal as “a step in the right direction” but “not as ambitious as what is needed.” And German EPP MEP Christian Ehler promised “the European Parliament will fight to increase this figure to €120 billion.” DSW, a global development NGO, described it as “disappointingly short of expectations.”
Sources: Politico, Twitter, Financial Times