The new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, did not mince her words at her first press conference on Wednesday (4 December), criticising a recent proposal of the Finnish EU Presidency for the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget and voicing concern “about the severe cuts in the proposal”.
The second item on the agenda of a two-day EU summit on 12-13 December is the ‘Multiannual Financial Framework’, meaning the ongoing work in view of adopting the EU’s long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period.
“The paper prepared by the Finnish Presidency for the European Council demonstrates how difficult the negotiations for the MFF are,” von der Leyen said. She added this also showed “the pervasive differences among the member states” vis-à-vis the proposal of the Commission, but also the proposals and the ideas of the European Parliament.
The 51-page paper, called “negotiating box with figures”, was leaked even before it was officially made public on Monday.
“I’m concerned about the severe cuts that are in this proposal, compared to the Commission’s proposals,” she said and added there were severe cuts in strategic policy areas, giving as an example Frontex [the EU’s border agency], defence, or the digital funds for greening the economy.
“I want to discuss this with my peers in the European Council next week”, she said with reference to the EU heads of state and government. She added she was looking forward to continuing this effort with new European Council President Charles Michel, with a view to reaching an agreement early next year.
In March, the European Parliament adopted its opinion on the Commission’s draft budget for 2021-2027. In July, the Council followed with its own position. Discussions are ongoing and the aim is to wrap them up with an agreement in the first half of 2020.
This is not the first time that the Finnish presidency is under fire for its perceived bias in favour of a leaner EU budget.
The Finnish paper says the maximum figure for total expenditure for the EU27 for the period 2021-2027 will be [€1 087 327] million in appropriations for commitments, representing [1.07%] of EU’s GNI, and [€1 080 000] in appropriation for payments, representing [1.06%] of EU GNI.
The square brackets mean that the figures are not agreed.
The paper says member states differ greatly on the overall contribution to the future MFF, with the range between 1.00% of the EU27 GNI, the Commission’s proposal of 1.11%, and the much more ambitious levels some countries wish for.
The Finnish paper also says that in order to protect the sound implementation of the EU budget, a general regime of conditionality will be introduced as regards the rule of law in member states.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]