Testy EU Budget Talks Blocked 02/21 06:18
Major contributors to the European Union's budget blocked progress at an
emergency summit on Friday, insisting that they would not stump up more funds
for the bloc's next long-term spending package, worth around one trillion euros
BRUSSELS (AP) -- Major contributors to the European Union's budget blocked
progress at an emergency summit on Friday, insisting that they would not stump
up more funds for the bloc's next long-term spending package, worth around one
trillion euros ($1.1 trillion).
The so-called "Frugal Four" of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden
believe the EU's 2021-2027 budget, which is meant to fund ambitious climate
change and digital economy policies, should amount to 1% of the 27-nation
trading bloc's gross national income.
EU Council President Charles Michel, who met with EU leaders throughout the
night trying to broker a compromise, has tabled a draft budget of 1.074% of
GNI. The European Parliament wants an ambitious 1.3%, while the EU's powerful
executive arm, the European Commission, prefers 1.11%.
"I can understand that when you're a prime minister in a country that has
poor regions, infrastructures, I can understand that ... but when it comes to
the percentage, I stand firm," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told
reporters in Brussels Friday.
Asked whether the standoff can be resolved, Frederiksen said "no, I don't
think so. I'm willing to stay, and I'm prepared to stay the whole weekend. But
no, I don't think we're going to reach an agreement."
She said that another summit would be required, probably in early March.
As he left European Union headquarters in the wee hours of Friday morning,
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters: "I'm going to bed."
Rutte departed with a biography of Chopin tucked under his arm --- a prop to
suggest that he would probably be reading rather than talking about softening
Broadly speaking, the "Frugal Four" with the backing of Germany are lined up
against the "Friends of Cohesion," a group of mainly central and eastern
European nations who want to see the continued flow of "cohesion funds" ---
money earmarked to help develop poorer regions.
"If we want to find an agreement, I think everybody has to be flexible. It
cannot be the way that one or some countries try to dictate the outcome," said
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Asked about the chances of a breakthrough,
she said: "It looks quite difficult, the situation."
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel rejected any talk of failure but
said that "if everybody just calculates what he pays and what he gets then we
will never come out."
Bettel underlined the importance of focusing on the advantages that the EU
brings. "In '57 when we created Europe, we realized maybe sometimes (it's
better) to give something up or to pay something to have something bigger
After a night of bilateral talks with Michel and in small groups, the
leaders were set to all meet together again mid-morning Friday. But like much
about this marathon money summit, nothing can be set in stone, and that timing
appeared likely to slip.
What's really at stake is whether the leaders are ready to put their money
where their mouths are when it comes to European policy ambitions. At the same
time, amid economic stagnation, they cannot afford to give the impression to
their home audiences that they are splashing taxpayers' cash.
With Britain gone from their ranks, the leaders want to prove that Europe
can still forge ahead toward brighter horizons, but Brexit has left them with a
sizable budget hole --- about 75 billion euros ($81 billion) over seven years.
In the great scheme of things this is not a huge amount of money for the
world's biggest trading bloc. Even if a trillion euros sounds like a lot, it
actually amounts to about 1% of the gross national income of the 27 nations
The budget is also made up of customs revenue and income from fines levied
by the commission, and the EU's executive arm has raked in plenty of those from
antitrust cases involving tech firms and others in recent years.
So no country even pays 1% of its own GNI, and the debate is over some 0.3
But it's not just about convincing reluctant member countries to stump up
funds. The parliament must also ratify any final budget agreement and for the
moment EU lawmakers are far from happy.
"At the moment, we remain 230 billion euros ($248 billion) apart," European
Parliament President David Sassoli said this week.