Brussels, 21 February 2020 (dpa/MIA) – EU leaders expressed little hope on Friday of striking a deal on the European Union’s next long-term budget, following marathon talks that ran into the early hours of the morning.
“I don’t think we are going to reach an agreement,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on her way into the new negotiation round, adding that a second summit in March would likely be needed.
“Most of us are not very optimistic,” added her Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis, while Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the situation looks “quite difficult.”
Denmark and three other member states are insisting that the bloc’s 2021-27 budget must not exceed 1 per cent of gross national income. Germany is also intent on curbing expenditure. However, most of the bloc’s 27 member states argue that the EU needs more money to fund its ambitions.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel expressed disappointment at the lack of progress, after European Council President Charles Michel held an overnight marathon of one-on-one talks with EU leaders.
Michel emerged without a new plan to resolve the dispute, according to council sources. Friday’s resumption of the summit was pushed back until 11 am (1000 GMT), then 12 pm, and was then delayed until further notice while Michel held further group talks.
“I have ambition for Europe,” Bettel said. “I’m fed up with us having to calculate how much I pay, how much I get back.”
EU budget negotiations are always fractious affairs, pitting many of the richer net contributors against poorer member states, which stand to benefit from grants and subsidy payouts.
This time around, the stakes are even higher, as the departure of net contributor Britain from the EU has blown an estimated hole of 60-75 billion euros (65-81 billion dollars) into the seven-year budget.
At the same time, the bloc faces costly new priorities such as migration challenges and an ambitious plan to tackle climate change.
Last week, Michel unveiled a budget proposal worth just more than 1 trillion euros, or 1.074 per cent of EU gross national income. But no EU capital has fully backed the plan, while the European Parliament is threatening to reject it.
Failure to agree a budget by year-end could have major implications for businesses or researchers dependent on EU funds, with officials warning of a “legal void” regarding payments to be made.
The disunity and risk of paralysis comes at a time when the EU is seeking to show new resolve and global heft, following Britain’s departure from the bloc last month.
It also risks distracting attention from pressing issues such as post-Brexit trade talks, the urgent need for a new migration strategy and looming summits with China and Africa.