Fabian Demicoli

Row over size of EU budget Divisions over budget and cohesion funding

The member states of the European Union clashed over the size of the EU's budget for 2014-20 and the role of cohesion funding for poorer regions. Disagreements aired at a meeting of the General Affairs Council on Tuesday (29 May) will feed doubts that the negotiations can be wrapped up during Cyprus's presidency of the Council of Ministers, in the second half of 2012.

The member states were represented at the meeting by ministers for European or foreign affairs.It was that first time that they had formally debated all the main elements of the EU's next multiannual financial framework (MFF), on both the revenue and the expenditure side. Their discussion was based on a negotiating document drafted by Denmark, the current holder of the rotating presidency, which left blank spaces for individual budget headings and overall figures.

A group of 14 member states, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Spain, defended cohesion spending as a “major tool for investment, growth and job creation”. Another group of seven member states, including Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, criticised the MFF proposal adopted by the European Commission last June as being “significantly in excess” of needs. Several member states want to cut the Commission's proposal of €1,025 billion by at least €100bn. Nicolai Wammen, Denmark's Europe minister, said after Tuesday's meeting that the “figures part” of the negotiations would happen in the second half of this year. Janusz Lewandowski, the European commissioner for financial programming and budget, said that the Commission was in the “final stage” of updating its proposal, to reflect the spring macroeconomic forecasts, new figures on Europe's regions, and the cost of Croatia joining the EU, scheduled for 1 July 2013.

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