World, Europe

Deal remains elusive at EU budget summit

EU leaders fail to agree on bloc's next long-term budget due to diverging interests

Agnes Szucs   | 21.02.2020
Deal remains elusive at EU budget summit

BRUSSELS

With an agreement still elusive, EU leaders need more time to reach a deal, Charles Michel, the European Council president, announced on Friday.

The EU heads of state and government discussed the bloc’s budget for the period of 2021-27 at their summit starting on Thursday, facing down a budget hole due to the departure of Britain from the bloc.

Although Michel held bilateral talks with each leader Thursday night in order to “reconcile the different interests and opinions,” no compromise emerged.

The main division stood between the so-called frugal camp, composed of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and the rest of the member states and EU institutions.

While the first group insists on strictly limiting the EU budget to 1% of the bloc’s gross national income (GNI), the others argue that a more ambitious and stronger Europe needs a bigger budget.

The latest proposal leaked to the press suggested 1.069%, considerably less than the 1.3% suggestion of the European Parliament and the “Friends of Cohesion” group of 17 southern and eastern countries.

“A more ambitious Europe needs a more ambitious budget,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. A member of the Cohesion group, he argued: “We can’t stop at 1% if we really want to do something in Europe in the fields of digitalization, border protection, agriculture, infrastructure development.”

“We managed to defend the interest of common agricultural policy that feeds the people and contributes to fight against climate change,” French President Emmanuel Macron said of the lack of an agreement. He found the budget proposal unacceptable because it allocated considerably less on common agricultural funds.

“The differences were simply too big,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the impasse. Nevertheless, she remained optimistic and insisted that the EU still had time to reach a deal.

The EU leaders have yet to agree on a new budgetary summit, but informal talks will continue in the coming weeks.

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