A 16-hour EU leadership summit ended on Friday (19 October) with the announcement of what is expected to be another marathon meeting of heads of state and government in November, when concrete figures for the 2014-2020 budget will be discussed for the first time.
EU leaders have been told not to make private plans for the weekend of 24-25 November, as the summit planned for 22 and 23 November would almost certainly need more time for discussions, EURACTIV has learned.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy also wants to avoid long night sessions, such as this week, when talks ended at 4 a.m. before resuming at 9.30 a.m. Friday.
How many shirts?
In the past, leaders have indicated their readiness to stay over the weekend to discuss the budget by announcing the number of shirts they had in their luggage.
Commission President José Manuel Barroso said reporters: “At next month’s extraordinary European summit, we need to provide the Union with a budget for growth and jobs. This is of critical importance. I cannot promise you to have more sleep. I think it’s going to be a long European Council."
French President François Hollande concurred.
“I think this was a very long summit,” he told journalists. “It’s not the first and not the last, because I think the next one will make you work during several nights … It will be very long this time. Because I felt at this summit, this is about the debate of those who are in the eurozone and those who are not,” Hollande said.
The 22-23 November summit was called by Van Rompuy on 3 September.
European affairs ministers meeting on 20 September highlighted the enormous differences in the approach over the shape of the future budget.
A senior EU diplomat summed up the discussions, saying that 15 countries had contested the Cypriot conclusion that cuts were needed across the board. But on the other side, a smaller group, “meaningful by its composition,” took the opposite view, he said.
France, Spain and Ireland have opposed cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy, while EU members from Central and Eastern Europe, together with Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg, opposed cuts in the cohesion policy.
A big issue also appears to be the rebates of the type that British leader Margaret Thatcher obtained at the 1984 Fontainebleau summit. Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden also benefit from rebates to their EU budget contribution. Under the new proposal, rebates would be lump sums, the system appearing as less beneficial to these countries than previously.
Eurozone vs non-eurozone
But as Hollande indicated that the discussions could be further complicated by a stand-off between eurozone and non-eurozone countries.
A special solidarity budget for the eurozone, called “a fiscal capacity”, will be developed separately from the budget of the Union for 2014-2020, leaders have repeatedly insisted.
“Further mechanisms, including an appropriate fiscal capacity, will be explored for the euro area. The process of exploration will be unrelated to the preparation of the next multi-annual financial framework,” the European Council conclusions say.
The multi-annual financial framework, or MFF, is the term for the EU’s 7-year budget.
Asked to comment on the idea of a eurozone budget, Van Rompuy said he had been asked by the summit to “explore” such a possibility.
“I will explore – footnote: I have been “explorateur royal”, he said amid laughs, referring to his role in the setting up of the Belgian government in 2008, when he ultimately became prime minister.
Poland seeks assurances
Poland has sought reassurances that it will be treated equally and will have more oversight over banking supervision, the backbone of the forthcoming banking union in which non-eurozone countries will not have voting rights.
The Council conclusions also say that the integrated financial framework would be “open to the extent possible” to all member states wishing to participate and that there would be “a level playing field between those member states which take part in the SSM and those which do not.”
The Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) is one of the three pillars of the banking union.
Van Rompuy denied that another summit would be needed to iron out details of the supervisory mechanism. He told EURACTIV that legal problem could be solved at the expert level.
“We give a general orientation to the finance ministers to find a final solution for the participation of non-euro countries in the single supervisory mechanism,” he said. “According to my analysis, it is more a legal problem than a political problem. The political will to find a solution for the full participation of the non-euro member states is there, is there.”