The EU Member States have widely criticised the EU executive’s proposal for Europe’s funding over the next decade after the European Commission proposed its proposal for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) for the years 2021-2027.
During a debate following EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s introductory remarks at the General Affairs Council, the delegations from Sweden and the Netherlands came out against plans for an increase in spending. to which Oettinger responded to calling for more flexibility and solidarity.
“I believe that it is important that all countries make it clear that we will have a tough attitude in the negotiations,” said Sweden’s EU minister Ann Linde. Her counterpart from the Netherlands, Stef Blok, said the Commission’s plan was “not acceptable to the Dutch government”. However
Both Oettinger and the holder of the rotating presidency, Bulgaria, have warned against postponing the decision on the MFF’s future until after the May 2019 European elections. “If we can adopt a budget for when the UK leaves, it will be a sign for EU citizens. It will be a sign of good governance,” said Oettinger.
Germany appears ready to “square the circle”, as its Foreign Minister Michael Roth reiterated that the leading contributor of the EU budget was ready to pay even higher membership fees, while also welcoming proposals to link EU funds to the rule of law, an idea that is not particularly popular with certain Eastern European countries, including Poland and Hungary.
Poland has been the most vocal in its opposition to the Commission’s plans, suggesting that such decision to link EU funds to the way a country observes the independence of its own judiciary would be a “massive power grab” on behalf of the Brussels.
Warsaw’s EU Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski said the Polish government would not accept the “revolutionary” level of spending cuts proposed to EU agricultural and cohesion funding. “We are ready to support all the instruments to control how to spend, but we need something that is more intelligent and treaty-based,” said Szymanski in front of his 27 colleagues.
Estonian Vice- Minister Maati Maasikas also suggested that the 5% and 7% cuts to the agricultural and cohesion funds were “too substantial” for his government to accept, a sentiment shared by Portugal’s EU minister, Ana Paula Zacarias, and Slovenia’s State Secretary, Iztok Mirosic, who each said the Commission’s plans were ‘too drastic’. Richer governments — who are net contributors to the budget — also voiced their opposition.
The Commission is expected to propose more detailed pieces of its MFF by the end of May, while a cohesion funds plan should be expected by mid-June.