‘Big three’ strike deal on super commissioner, French VAT cuts, 1% ceiling

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany have agreed to back the German request for a super-commissioner and conceded cuts in VAT for French restaurants.

Background

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany reached agreement on 18 February over several issues they consider vital for their countries' economy and the EU at large, one month ahead of the Spring European Summit.

In a joint letter to the Irish presidency , the 'big three' backed a German demand to appoint a super commissioner for competitiveness and industry (see

EURACTIV, 17 February 2004). The new commissioner would also be vice-president of the Commission and "should be able to intervene in all decisions concerning EU projects that have an impact" on the economic performance of the EU. They defended Schröder's proposal for the need to accelerate economic reforms in the EU, who has so far not shown the sort of growth needed to help it meet ambitious Lisbon economic targets.

In what appears to be a trade-off to the deal with Schröder, Jacques Chirac announced that Berlin had finally relented on the outstanding issue of VAT cuts for France's restaurants.

They also reiterated an earlier proposal to put a one per cent ceiling on a countries' contribution to the EU budget, expressed in GDP.

Other initiatives concern innovation, reforms of the labour market and social security, including a reform of the EU's 6th Framework Programme for research (FP6)

The apparent success of this informal summit is likely to confirm fears among other EU leaders that they are being bypassed by a small group of influential countries on issues of concern to the whole 15-member block.

Although it generally welcomed the meeting, the Irish Presidency said in a statement that "the key thing, however, is that the Union's own structures and decision-making processes are respected. [...] Actions can be proposed but not imposed".

 

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