Baltic leaders back bigger EU budget after Brexit

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite (R) welcomes European Council president Donald Tusk prior to a meeting in Vilnius on February 15, 2018. [Council]

The leaders of three Baltic states yesterday (15 February) backed a proposal for EU members to pay more into the bloc’s budget after 2020 to fill a Brexit void.

The next long-term budget from 2021 to 2027 is set to be a source of friction as some members are resisting hikes in budget contributions to make up for the gap left by Britain.

“We believe in a strong and stable EU,” said a letter to EU President Donald Tusk, signed by Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

“We are prepared to discuss ways to maintain the level of the current multi-annual financial framework, even after Brexit, by increased contributions and possibly new own resources to the EU budget.”

Grybauskaitė gave the letter to Tusk on Thursday in Vilnius, where he is on a visit on the occasion of the country’s 100 years after restoring independence.

“I need more time to analyse the substance of the letter, but you can count on me traditionally, no doubt,” Tusk told reporters.

“The future budget of the EU will be a particular challenge to negotiate this time in the context of Brexit.”

The Baltic trio backed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s call last month for a bigger share of Europe’s GDP to go towards the European Union.

EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger said Wednesday that Britain’s exit could leave a hole of as much as between €12 and €15 billion.

He suggested that contributions be increased to between 1.1% and 1.2% of GDP from the current level of one percent of GDP in the 2014-2020 budget.

The Baltic states also called for more farming subsidies, saying “the direct payments for the Baltic States’ farmers are among the lowest in the EU and remain considerably below the European average.”

“This is not sustainable, given that we are facing almost the same costs and challenges across Europe,” they added.

Supporters of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are concerned that the subsidies will be decreased to boost other European priorities like migration or security.

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