For a few weeks now, the EU has been divided into two camps, the names of which sound like comic titles: the "friends of cohesion" versus the "frugal four". The friends of cohesion include around 17 countries in the south and central Europe (including Portugal, Italy and the Czech Republic), which have benefited from many million euros in structural funding and agricultural aid from Brussels for years. It was only in early February that the friends met in Portugal to work together against cuts in the EU budget.
On the other side are the frugal four . These are the economically strong countries of the north, i.e. Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria. At the weekend, they urged that they no longer have to pay into the EU pot, after all, together with Germany, they would already net 75 percent of the EU budget. You are ready to pay more, after all, you also benefit considerably from the world's largest internal market. "But there are limits," sighed the four country heads in the Financial Times .
The two camps will now meet in Brussels on Thursday. The new EU Council President Charles Michel has invited to the special summit to distribute the EU funds for the years 2021 to 2027, in Brussels bureaucratic German this means "multi-year financial planning". It's almost exactly a trillion euros - a lot of money and influence. The last time the 28 member states negotiated the EU budget in 2013 - participants speak of "mega traumatic" experiences. It took two attempts to get a result at all. At that time, it was primarily the British who stood in the way, not only insisting on their discount on payment obligations, but also insisting that the overall EU budget be reduced. In the end, the then prime minister David Cameron, whom the Brexit supporters at home had put under pressure, won.
12 billion euro Brexit hole
Seven years and a Brexit later, the remaining 27 countries now lack around 12 billion euros from London. And so the fight for decimal places started. Alleinum to compensate for the Brexit hole, the contribution would have to increase to 1.07 to 1.08 percent of economic output, currently it is one percent. In addition, the priorities have changed completely: the new commission wants the EU to compete more effectively with China and the USA, the handling of migrants is better managed, the digitization is pushed and there is more cooperation in defense and border protection. Above all, President Ursula von der Leyen's extremely ambitious Green Deal climate protection program is to be financed.
After the EU Commission and Parliament had already presented their own budget proposals, EU Council President Charles Michel presented a 54-page compromise last Friday. He is afraid of radical changes and a significant increase in the budget, as the EU Parliament would like it to be. Before courageous cuts in the two large pots of structural aid and agricultural spending, however, also. Compared to the current budget, Michel wants to cut structural aid by two percent and agricultural aid by as much as 14 percent. Nevertheless, a large imbalance remains: While the budget for climate protection measures is aimed at around 13 billion, it is still around 336 billion for farmers. France has traditionally been generous agricultural aid from Brussels, Germany is no less humble.
Experts are already warning of greenwashing, because the requirements are still open so that farmers can ensure more biodiversity and clean water, for example. For a long time, environmental associations have also criticized institutions such as the Federal Environment Agency that the previous success of environmental protection requirements for European farmers (" greening ") has been low and that too much money has been lump-sum paid to large companies. MEPs also fear that the opportunity to create more transparency, particularly in the area of agricultural subsidies, will be missed, especially in Eastern Europe.
So the big pots stay big, but the small ones also small. Michel plans to reduce the Horizon Europe research and innovation program, which promotes knowledge transfer and climate protection initiatives, by more than a third compared to the EU Parliament. The support for start-ups and small and medium-sized companies through the COSME program is even being cut, although it is already underfunded by motor. Similarly, Frontex, the program that protects the EU's external borders, faces the same threat: Frontex should actually be increased to 10,000 jobs - EU parliamentarians fear that the current proposals would only fund 6,500, and Erasmus, the well-known student exchange program, is to receive 21 billion euros for seven years - the EU Parliament would like to have twice as much. "After Brexit, it is an important sign that we are supporting European youth," says Rasmus Andresen, who is negotiating for the Greens in the EU Parliament.