Oettinger fires at ‘misleading’ EU budget figures

European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

The dispute between net contributors and the European Commission escalated on Wednesday (30 October) as Budget Commissioner Gunter Oettinger described as “misleading” Germany’s EU budget figures reported by the media.

Oettinger, a member of the ruling CDU coalition party in Berlin, said that media reports had published “misleading figures” over the past days.

Last Sunday, the Financial Times reported that Germany would double its payments to the multiannual financial framework (MFF), the EU’s long-term budget, for the 2021-2027 period, quoting what it said were German government estimates.

Its contribution would thus increase from €15 billion in 2020, the last year of the current financial period, to €33 billion in 2027.

Summit concludes with no progress on EU’s long-term budget

EU leaders failed to narrow their differences over the EU’s seven-year budget for 2021-27,  the Multiannual Financial Framework, as member states maintained their entrenched positions on the EU’s spending volume and priorities. 

Oettinger told reporters that he had discussed the contributions with the German government over the past days and the figures published by the FT were not mentioned in the discussion.

“I have no idea what your sources are,” he said, but “they are working with figures that are not misleading but a lie”.

According to the Commission’s proposal, Germany’s contribution will not exceed €23.5 billion in 2027, the German Commissioner stated.

The Netherlands would increase its contribution by as much as 75% to around €13 billion, according to the figures of Dutch finance ministry reported by the FT.

The EU executive proposed an EU budget of 1.11% of the EU 27 gross national income.

Commission’s 'realistic' budget criticised by member states

The European Commission’s proposal for a moderate increase of EU funds for the next budgetary period (2021-2027) was immediately dismissed as a non-starter by national capitals.

But net contributors, including Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, are unhappy with larger transfers to the EU coffers and instead want to limit the overall size to 1% of the EU’s GNI.

Oettinger explained that the bigger amounts are partly due to inflation, the GDP growth and the new priorities that member states want to address, including research, digitalisation or migration.

At the same time, the Commission also wants to cover around half of the yearly €12-14 billion hole the UK would leave in the EU budget once it leaves the bloc.

While the EU executive blamed Berlin for misleading reporters with “erroneous figures”, Oettinger did not disclose the net figures for the next financial period that member states are expected to obtain or the amounts they would have to pay.

The latest dispute between Germany and the EU executive came against the backdrop of the difficulties to reach an agreement on the MFF.

A large group of member states have criticised the latest proposal put forward by Finland, holder of the rotating EU presidency, in an attempt to narrow the differences.

Visegrad countries slam Finnish presidency MFF paper

Ahead of an EU summit starting on Thursday (17 October), diplomats from the four Visegrad countries harshly criticised the Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU for a paper it prepared to help the leaders’ discussion on the bloc’s …

Member states continue to disagree not only over the overall size of the MFF but also over the allocation of funds for large envelopes, including cohesion and agriculture, or the introduction of new conditionality.

EU leaders mandated the Finnish presidency with putting forward a new proposal by the end of this year, including figures.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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