"It is easier to form a Government in Belgium than to negotiate the European Budget." The phrase, half seriously half jokingly, was released on Thursday by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte upon his arrival at the European Council. And although it is hard to believe, it is absolutely right. Belgium has been in operation since December 2018 and the previous records of eternal negotiations are famous. However, the fights for community money are always worse.
The kick-off was given by the European Commission in May 2018. It was the ' Calviño Proposal' , since the now Minister of Economy and Vice President of the Government was the General Director of Budgets and the one in charge of putting the first figure on the table: a Multiannual Financial Framework of 1.11% of the gross national income of the EU, just over one billion euros. More than a year and a half later, the fight for a few hundredths is still open, and only now the heads of state and government have locked themselves in Brussels to try to unlock something deeply entrenched. Without success on the first night.
It is not something new or especially dramatic. It is true that we are facing the most difficult negotiation to date, since Brexit has practically imposed that the available money be less (in relative terms) than before. But the processes are traced. The parties exaggerate, theatricalize, shout a lot and arrive with maximalist positions, but end up finding a way to understand each other. It is likely that a summit is not enough, even if it lasts three days, but the commitment is always somewhere in between. The procedures, of course, can still take several months, at best.
The choreography was quite clear. In the morning. Michel saw the ones that really matter, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron . Then, with the 'four frugal', Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands, which go hand in hand in this war and are being very aggressive in rhetoric and red lines. And then with many others. The Spanish was not among them.
Then there was a general round, all in the room, to see the mood and belligerence. And the session was interrupted for a succession of face-to-face meetings of many hours. "Highly disappointing," said Pedro Sánchez of the proposed departure upon arrival. "It's very complicated," summarized the always cautious Merkel. "We are going astray, the amount is too high," said Finnish Sanna Marin. "More money for the CAP," Macron said. "An increase like the one they are asking for is out of the question," said Swedish Stefan Lofven .
In the first rounds nothing happened and nothing was expected. This negotiation is a work of mining and patience, of gradually scratching, of combining pieces and designing a puzzle that nobody likes but disappoints everyone equally. It requires tact, fast and flexible alliances. "It's about gaining time and points until Germany accepts the balance," a community source says cynically. "The frugal can be filled with the mouth that they have a mandate from their Parliament, but if Germany moves they go behind," says a diplomatic source who closely follows the process.
The objective of Spain is to avoid, however, that the cuts in the CAP (13%) and the Cohesion Funds (12%) remain so. "We are working to make the cut zero," Moncloa sources explain. " In no case are we going to be the big losers , discarded 100%," they promise.
The lace is very complicated. The frugal ones, with Germany or Finland, want to spend less in general. And also, keep the so-called 'rebates', the compensatory checks. The first was achieved by the United Kingdom in 1984 and in the current period, several countries enjoy them partially. They are returns to part of their contributions. Thus, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden receive 130, 695 and 185 million euros respectively (as of 2011) that are deducted from their contributions. Austria also, but only until 2016. Germany, the Netherlands and the Netherlands, in addition, receive a discount on VAT contributions, which is 0.15% instead of 0.30%.
The proposal of the Council is that, without the United Kingdom in the EU, that concept dies little by little. More than 20 countries want it too, but the frugal ones resist. "They have stopped making sense, it is something old, an idea that distorts payments. The position is that they have to go from day 1," they say from Moncloa. But above all, they do not keep the entire period so that they are not institutionalized.
France wants less cuts in the CAP and more money in Defense. Those from the east, plus Cohesion funds. The Baltics, depopulation aids. The Commission, and the richest, go towards games focused on combating climate change or innovation. Visegrad, that there are no political conditions (such as respect for the rule of law) to receive funds. Spain, as Sánchez said, "more ambition" and resources for "Climate change, education, Erasmus, the CAP, cohesion, the social pillar, youth or children's guarantee", etc.
Everything is impossible. Either it spends more or is cut from somewhere. The positions, despite the rhetoric, are not as far apart as it seems. Frugales do not want a budget of more than 1.03% (counting certain development funds). The Council wants 1,074%. By modulating the 'rebates', the compensation checks requested by the richest, and by adjusting direct aid to farmers ( what Sanchez demands and needs with the field on a war footing ), there may be some understanding. But not yet. "This is an art, like sculpture. We start from a block of marble and you have to take it off until it is shaped. It is tiring and if your hand goes a little on one side, you load everything. The result is not a work of art, but it deserves nothing better, "summarizes a negotiator.
According to the criteria of The Trust ProjectKnow more
- United Kingdom
- Pedro Sanchez
- Angela Merkel
- European Comission
- Emmanuel Macron
Macroeconomics Sanchez's express trip to Brussels to negotiate the European Budget
Key Summit Sanchez, without great allies, tries to minimize the cuts to the CAP and Cohesion from today
European Union The Southern and Eastern European countries refuse to reduce the community budget