The EU's budgetary future could be defined to the detriment of structural policies

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Which objectives for the European Union? Which common projects to support? And with which budget and which types of resources? It is to all these crucial questions for the future of the European construction that the decision policy-makers will have to answer in the discussion on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework post 2020.

The prospects for the future of the European Union have changed considerably over the past year. After the vote in favour of Brexit in the UK and with the rise of Europhobic parties in many member states, few observers were optimistic about any possible relaunch of the "European project".

However, the defeat of the extremist parties in the Netherlands, Austria and France and the election in France against all expectations of a President defending a pro-European program have greatly changed the future prospects. Even if the Europeans are now focused on the forthcoming elections in Germany in September, it would seem that we are moving towards years of strengthening the European integration on subjects such as defence and immigration.

But while these new political priorities for the construction of Europe are becoming increasingly clear, the discussions in Brussels on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (post-2020) have already begun. The negotiation of the European budget takes several years, during which the European decision-makers must make difficult choices to allocate the available resources, which are always limited in view of their ambitions.

The next budget will not include the British contribution, as the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. However, for the High-level group on "own resources", Brexit should be seen as an opportunity to end the “fair return” policy that had been established by Margaret Thatcher with her famous statement "I want my money back".

Mario Monti, the President of the High-level group, said:

"The EU budget is one of the main tools for the EU to achieve its objectives and needs in depth rethinking. It should focus more on common challenges such as securing our external borders, stabilizing our neighbourhood or tackling climate change. At the same time, new resources would help us move to a more simple, transparent, fair and democratically accountable system. Now is the moment to make the financing of our European project fit for the future. Let's not waste this opportunity[1]".

Even if the Member States agreed to compensate for the loss of the British share, the budget would still need to be redirected towards the new European decision-makers’ strategic priorities. This could harm the structural policies, which today mobilise a large part of the budget, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy. It may also affect the Common Fisheries Policy which accounts for a much more modest budget but whose sustainability is already a concern for many Members of the European Parliament, including Isabelle Thomas, Member of the Fisheries Committee and rapporteur for the European Parliament for the future Multiannual Financial Framework.


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