First post-Brexit EU budget signals major cuts to agriculture and regional policy

EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Gunter Oettinger, European Comissioner for Budget and Human Resources during a press conference following the 'College meeting - Institutional affairs and the Multiannual Financial Framework' meeting after 2020 at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 14 February 2018.

First post-Brexit EU budget signals major cuts to agriculture and regional policy


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The European Commission’s  proposals for the EU’s next budget include cuts in some areas and new sources of revenue to make up for the hole left by the departure of UK from the EU.

According to Commission, the bloc’s funding should be subject to respect to the EU’s core values, which would include cuts to ‘old’ priorities such as agricultural and cohesion policy, but boosts support for more pressing current issues from immigration to security and defence policies, said the Commissioner for the EU Budget Günther Oettinger on Wednesday.

“Budgets are not accounting years; they reflect our priorities and our ambitions. They are a translation of our future into figures. We need to start by debating what Europeans want,” said the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, just before Oettinger took the floor at the EU executive headquarters pressroom.  the president of the European Commission, in a statement on Wednesday. “Next, the member states will have to match their financial means with their ambitions”.

Brexit will signal a “significant” loss to the financing of EU policies, and the European Commission suggests that the bloc needs to take a critical look at cutting certain priorities that are no longer at forefront of European citizens’ needs. The Commission believes that the top priorities for most European residents have changed significantly in the past five years, which requires a reevaluation of many of the budget’s earmarked programmes.

Europeans have regularly listed safety and security as their top priorities, driven by “instability at the EU’s doorstep”. The European Commission recognises that a major boost in spending for border security is necessary and they suggest that the bloc could choose between doubling the current expenditure of €4 billion to make the most of the control systems already in place; or increase it to € 20-25 billion to create a true integrated system for controlling external borders and doubling the number of staff to 3,000. The second option would bring the EU’s border security procedures in line with the systems used in the United States and Canada.

The Commission also noted that an increase in funding is required for “the common defence capabilities of the Union”. At least € 3.5 billion will be needed for research and € 7 billion for industrial development.

Erasmus, the EU’s flagship education programme, is endowed with €14 billion but requires at least double its current funding to increase the number of students going abroad two-fold. The increased budget would give the programme the financial capability of sending one out of every three European students to study outside their home country.

The EU’s digital portfolio is also growing significantly, and also requires a doubling of its budget to €70 billion.

The only areas where the Commission proposes serious cuts are in the bloc’s cohesion and agricultural policies. It has offered to maintain the status quo, with funds continuing to support all of Europe’s regions, or a serious slash of the budget by up to a third to help support less developed regions or specifically Eastern Europe.

Agricultural expenditures will either remain the same or be subjected to a 15%-30% cut.

The European Commission’s budget proposals will be debated by the heads of state and government on February 23 at an informal summit in Strasbourg, with early May set as the deadline for final draft of the 2021-2027 budget.

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