Thursday, October 14, 2010
I Want Your Money Back!
EU institutions and member states are warming up for the negotiations on the post-2013 EU budget, which are just around the corner. French MEP Alain Lamassoure, who chairs the European Parliament's Committee on Budgets, said yesterday that national governments should avoid behaving "like 27 Baroness Thatcher around the table".
Unfortunately, his own country isn't likely to take his advice. Last week, French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche outlined France's negotiation position on the next EU budget period, due to start in 2014*.
And it was pretty uncompromising and unrealistic stuff. Lellouche said that an increase in France's contribution to the EU budget "is not feasible" and that the austerity measures implemented by member states should be reflected by a reduction of spending at the EU level.
So far, so good. But then he went on to say that Common Agricultural Policy funding "must be kept at current levels, especially in regards to direct payments". The same goes for cohesion policy, which "puts the EU in a shop window" and needs to be safeguarded.
In terms of actual "cuts", Lellouche mentioned only one: the UK rebate. This has to be renegotiated he said, otherwise, "it would weigh a bit too much on France's contribution [to the EU budget]".
So Lellouche's wish list for the post-2013 EU budget:
- No increase in France's contribution
- Less spending at the EU level
- No cuts to CAP and cohesion funds
- No more UK rebate
Ridiculous. Lellouche seems to take an I-want-your-money-back approach to the upcoming budget negotiations. Not sounding like Thatcher at all...
And where, exactly, does he see the actual reductions meant to reflect austerity measures in member states?
For the sake of accuracy, these are the exact words of French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche during his hearing with the French Parliament's European Affairs Committee, based on the transcript available on the website of the Assemblée Nationale.
On the size of the EU budget post-2013:
“It is out of question that austerity only applies to member states and is not reflected by EU spending. The size of the EU budget must therefore be stabilised for the whole of the next financial framework”.
On the need to preserve a strong CAP:
“I would like to insist on a strong message: the EU must keep a strong Common Agricultural Policy […] The CAP budget must be preserved and, in particular, EU financing of direct aid [to farmers] must be kept”.
On the UK rebate:
“The next financial framework must deal with the revenue side of the EU budget, since the financing of the EU budget has become unfair and illegible. France is by far the largest net contributor to the various existing rebates - the British rebate, the VAT rebate, the 'rebate on the British rebate'. France disburses every year €2 billion to finance them, of which €1.5 billion only for the UK rebate, as France contributes to more than 25% of the British rebate. This situation can’t last anymore!”