Brussels Viewpoint – Our Slice of Pie

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This article by Denise Grech appeared first on Diplomatique.Expert (Edition 23) and is compiled by CiConsulta for Corporate Dispatch 

Last Thursday, EU member state leaders met in Brussels to decide on the trillion euro question: How should the bloc’s budget be split up?

Negotiations for the EU’s multi-annual financial framework took a turn this week in a special summit that went on late into the night. European Council President Charles Michel had to face the leaders of 27 Member States as they fought for their slice of the pie. The leaders failed to agree on an answer, but Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela promised that he would fight for an increase in the country’s budget.

However, Malta’s negotiating position has been hampered by the country’s growing economy over the last few years. Malta had previously benefitted from cohesion funds which were targeted at helping regions with a GDP per capita below 75 per cent of the EU average.

But before Abela can address concerns on Malta’s share, EU leaders have to deal with four key debates that can shape the budget for the next seven years.

But before Abela can address concerns on Malta’s share, EU leaders have to deal with four key debates that can shape the budget for the next seven years.

The first big question European leaders had to grapple with is the size of the budget. Some countries- namely Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden –  want the budget to be 1% of each EU’s Gross National Income. But others think that’s too little and want bigger budgets.

The other big decision is looking at how the budget will be sliced. Some are insisting the budget should focus on agriculture and regional development, others are pushing for programmes like research and innovation.

A third huge fight is over rebates – deductions to what countries pay into the EU’s budget and a fourth debate will be over the rule of law- or whether funding will be tied to respect of rule of law criteria.

The budget battle is usually one of the toughest in Brussels and EU leaders often enter negotiations in alliances to make their positions stronger.

The five northern countries pushing for the budget to be reduced to 1% of the EU’s GNI are also pushing to retain rebates, even now that the UK has left the EU. The UK was the original recipient of the rebate. The group is also pushing for budget allocation to go towards migration and research, rather than agricultural.

The second group is made up of 17 Eastern and Southern European countries- including Malta. The group is pushing for support to the EU’s cohesion policy, which focuses on less-developed regions. There are divergences within this group, as some (including Malta) are pushing for the MFF to be set at 1.11 per cent of GNI.

Another group, led by France, is pushing for funds to be allocated for agriculture. Right now, the industry enjoys around 35% of total spending from the EU budget, but the European Commission has proposed to reduce this share to around 28%. The effort, led by 19 member states, is pushing for more investment in farming.

The final group- Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden- have insisted that they will not approve the budget if it does not link the distribution of funding to respect for the rule of law. Members of this faction are primarily wealthier countries where voters tend to be concerned about reports of threats to checks and balances in some eastern nations, as well as reports about misuse of EU funding.

This article appeared first on Diplomatique.Expert (Edition 23) and is compiled by CiConsulta for Corporate Dispatch 

 

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