A special summit of the European Union’s leadership has been called for 22-23 November to negotiate the EU’s budget for 2014-20.
The meeting was called by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, on Monday (3 September), after it became clear that a political agreement on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) would not be within reach of a summit scheduled for 18-19 October. The October summit will now be devoted largely to the eurozone crisis, as will another summit on 13-14 December.
Member states’ ministers for European or foreign affairs failed to bridge their differences during an informal meeting in Cyprus last week (30 August). Even before that, a briefing paper prepared by Cyprus, the holder of the rotating presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers, had made it plain that hopes for a breakthrough in October were unrealistic.
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Balancing the budget
Until now, the disagreements between member states have mainly focused on the overall size of the MFF and of the balance between policy areas. A group of net contributors to the EU’s budget, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden, want to slash the European Commission’s proposal for an MFF worth €1,033 billion by around €100bn. Another group, headed by Poland, wants to preserve EU spending on cohesion policy for poorer regions. Such differences, diplomats suggest, will deepen in the second half of this month, when Cyprus plans to attach actual figures to specific MFF headings.
“Once you’ve got figures [on the MFF], that is all anyone wants to talk about,” a diplomat said. The least painful solution, the diplomat suggested, would be an equal decrease across all budget headings. But several other issues will complicate the negotiations. The rebate on the UK’s contribution to the EU budget is expected to come under intense pressure, while several member states have hinted that they might reduce their contribution to the European Development Fund, the main source of EU development aid, which is not part of the EU budget.
Because of the special summit in November, the General Affairs Council – the monthly meeting of ministers for European or foreign affairs – has been brought forward from 26 November to 20 November.