EU budget summit aftermath: ‘Everyone’s a winner’

  

National leaders were quick to portray last week's budget summit agreement as a victory for their country. But one week after the dust has settled, the picture looks more nuanced. The EurActiv network brings you an overview from Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

 

For the first time in the EU's history, the next budget (2014-2020) will be smaller than during the previous one (2007-2013).

Following the 26-hour negotiations, €18 billion of additional cuts were made compared with the earlier proposals tabled at the last summit in November.

>> Read: The EU's 2014-2020 budget in figures

In Britain, Cameron wins cross-party support

Prime Minister David Cameron was widely portrayed as the main summit victor.

His Conservative party hailed the outcome as a "historic victory" for Cameron, who had threatened a veto if the cuts were not significantly bigger than those proposed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in November.

>> Read: Eurosceptics give Cameron 'three cheers' for EU budget win

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Cameron said the deal was good for Britain, good for Europe and "above all a good deal for all our taxpayers".

He was congratulated by his party, as well as Labour and Liberal-Democrat MPs. The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, said the party's MEPs would back the deal in the European Parliament.

Bulgaria ‘biggest net beneficiary’

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said his country would get €15.2 billion in total under the deal, the net balance (minus the country’s contribution to the EU budget) being €12 billion.

Brissov said his country was among the four that saw an increase in their cohesion funds, from €6.85 billion in the past budget to €7 billion in the new one.

“This is the first [EU] budget which cuts funding to the members, and cutting money is very painful,” Borissov said, adding: “But for Bulgaria the result is good”. He added that Bulgaria was the biggest net beneficiary in terms of EU funds measured against the country’s gross national income, with a net balance of 4%.

Czechs happy with extra €900 million

Prime Minister Petr Nečas presented the EU summit result as a success for his country as he managed to win an extra €900 million in comparison with the last budget proposal in November.

Nečas attributed the results to his “veto threat”.

As a result, the Czech allocation, coming mainly from cohesion policy, now stands at €20.5 billion, up from €19.6 billion he said.

This didn’t prevent the opposition from slamming the agreement, on the grounds that in the 2007-2014 period, Prague was allocated €26.7 billion, and that the prime minister had therefore failed in the negotiations.

France of two minds

President François Hollande was among the rare national leaders who did not hide his disappointment.

"Is this your dream budget? I would say if I were alone, no, it would have been different," Hollande told a news conference, adding that it was his "responsibility" to agree on the best possible deal given Europe's difficult fiscal situation.

"What had to be done was that all countries could be winners," Hollande told journalists. He said, however, that "Europe has not necessarily won as much as she could" and that deep cuts had to be made to the European Commission's original proposal.

"But in the envelope, each country could find something they wanted," Hollande claimed, citing the cohesion funding for poorer Central European states and France's own wish to maintain direct payments to its farmers.

Though divided, Hollande's Socialists officially supported the compromise.

The opposition UMP and the Greens, which are part of the governing coalition, both regretted that Hollande had failed to convince its partners to preserve the budget. 

But perhaps more significantly, French farmers expressed their satisfaction with the deal reached on agriculture, where cuts to direct payments are to be compensated by rural development funding. France "has succeeded in protecting its interests", said the main farmers union FNSEA.

Germany hails discipline

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, from the liberal FDP party, said he "welcomed" the deal, saying it demonstrated the EU's ability to take decisions in difficult times.

“The agreement sends a Europe-wide signal of consolidation. Fiscal discipline, structural reforms and solidarity are the key to permanently overcome the debt crisis,” Westerwelle said.

Ilse Aigner (CSU), Germany’s minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, also welcomed the deal, especially regarding the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Against the background of a necessity of cost reduction in general, the danger of solely putting pressure on the agricultural budget was averted, she said.

“Public money for public services - it is good that all EU countries have clearly avowed themselves to this important principle,” said Aigner.

But the opposition was less enthusiastic.

“The programme to combat youth unemployment is to be welcomed but should not hide the fact that the overall settlement is bad,” said Manuel Sarrazin, spokesman on EU affairs for the Greens.

“For the first time we are witnessing a reduction of the EU budget - €34 billion compared to the budget for 2007-2013. Merkel's disastrous strategy has prevailed: Cut as much as possible, give as little as necessary.

“The gaping breach between commitments and payments illustrates the result is not a sustainable solution in Europe's interest and is threatening to block up the EU financially every year,” Sarrazin said.

‘Extra funds’ for Italy

The government focused its communication on the extra money that the country got during the final talks.

Rome remains a net contributor to the EU budget despite its own fiscal woes, but its "negative balance" has been reduced by €3.5 billion, a figure that made headlines in the national media.

The main criticism came from Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party, who said that Prime Minister Mario Monti had won a “Pyrrhic victory".

“If Cameron is happy from the outcome of the summit, we shouldn’t have reasons to call it a good deal,” Bersani said.

Italy goes to the polls on 24-25 February in one of its most important elections in decades. Polls show Bersani’s centre-left may win majority in the lower house but in need of allies to hold the Senate.

Poland sees ‘unique, huge success’

Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski called the budget deal “a unique, huge success”.

Bartlomiej Nowak from the Centre for International Relations (CSM) told EurActiv Poland that the summit “was very good for Poland, but bad for the entire European Union”.

In his view, the negotiations were too much subordinated to the demands of Britain. As for the budget, negotiated by the Polish team led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk and EU Affairs Minister Piotr Serafin, the result should be called “a miracle”, he said. The agreement was also the result of “a great deal of luck,” he said.

Jacek Sasin from the opposition Law and Justice party (PiS) was more critical, advising the government to focus now on the good use of the agreed sums. He said that to the difference of cohesion funding, the obtained results for farmers weren’t that good.

MEP Rafal Trzaskowski (EPP/Civic Platform), meanwhile, said that the parliament had not been consulted in the spirit of the Lisbon Treaty.

In Romania, PM and president bicker over summit result

President Traian Băsescu, who attended the summit, and Prime Minister Victor Ponta clashed over the assessment of the budget summit results.

Băsescu said his country had won an 18% increase compared to the last long-term budget, citing a total allocation of €39.8 billion, €6 billion more than in the previous period.

But the prime minister said the results of the summit had been disappointing for Romania, hitting at Băsescu for not having been able to improve the country’s allocation from the November proposal.

Ponta measured the summit result against the Commission’s initial proposal, saying that the country had “lost €9 billion” during the talks attended by his political rival.

Ponta also said that for €2 Portugal, Hungary and Slovakia were receiving per capita, Romania got €1. 

Slovakia claims it won the ‘competition for money’

Prime Minister Robert Fico praised the summit outcome, calling his country the “second most successful after Estonia” in terms of cohesion funding per capita.  

Slovakia was one of the biggest winners of this “competition for money from the EU,” Fico said. He said EU resources constitute 76% of the public investment planned in Slovakia in 2013.

Fico said Slovakia will get more than €13 billion from the EU budget, more than the previous allocation. Slovakia is also satisfied with the agreed 15% co-financing of the EU funded project, instead of earlier proposed 25%, he said.

Spain remains net beneficiary

Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the budget deal positive for Spain, as his country will remain a net beneficiary of EU funds.

Rajoy stressed that his country would get more than 30% of the money from a newly created €6-billion Youth Guarantee fund, aimed at ensuring that everyone under 25 get a quality job, internship or educational offer within four months of finishing school or becoming unemployed.

Nearly 60% of young Spaniards are unemployed, the highest figure in Europe.

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EU candidate Serbia, which receives pre-accession funding, monitored the budget talks.

Ognjen Miric, deputy chief of the Serbian government's Office for European Integration and coordinator for EU funds, said the EU was unlikely to downsize its pre-accession, or IPA, assistance in the next budget and the specific proposed amount should be made public quickly.

"Over the past six months, our embassies have worked closely with member states on IPA allocations, and the information coming to us from the key members suggested there should be no reductions to the IPA budget," he said.

He said €11.4 billion was allocated for the West Balkans under the 2007-2013 EU budget, of which Serbia received €400 million.

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