It’s hard enough to get 27 member states to agree unanimously on a seven-year, €1,000bn budget – as anyone following the latest EU summit wrestling match can attest. But completing an EU budget deal requires one more thing: the consent of the European parliament.
Martin Schulz, the German social democrat and parliament president, reminded EU leaders and the Brussels press pack of this fact on Thursday evening. In a mildly foreboding press conference, Schulz re-stated his threat that leaders should be prepared for MEPs to block any budget proposal that strays too far from the €1,033bn proposal submitted more than a year ago by the European commission, the EU’s executive arm.
“Yes, we are prepared to make savings, but we are not prepared to have the European Union budget simply amputated,” he said.
Schulz declined to say whether the latest €960bn proposal being considered by Herman Van Rompuy, the European council president, crossed the line from extreme weight loss to amputation. But he was clearly displeased. Read more
There have not been too many Greek success stories in Brussels the last few years. But one of them may have emerged on Wednesday after a landmark vote in the European parliament to overhaul Europe’s troubled common fisheries policy.
Many hands deserve the credit – from MEPs to environmental campaigners and fishermen, themselves. But near the top of the list must be Greece’s Maria Damanaki, the fisheries commissioner.
Damanaki got the ball rolling when she introduced her own proposal curb overfishing in 2011, and has worked tirelessly since then to keep the momentum going.
“I’m a big fan,” Richard Benyon, the UK fisheries minister, said in December. “I think she has driven the reform process in a very determined way.” Read more
The big question entering Thursday’s summit is whether Herman Van Rompuy, the European council president, can find the right balance between the UK’s demands for an austere long-term budget and France and Italy’s calls for a more robust one. The more Van Rompuy stretches toward the Brits and fellow budget hawks by reducing his proposal, the more those on the other side of the debate pull back. Eventually, the whole thing could snap.
But on the eve of the big meeting, Van Rompuy may have found a clever way to give his budget more elasticity: By increasing the gap between budget commitments and payments. Read more
During his inaugural address on Monday, US President Barack Obama committed himself to a European priority that was shoved to the background during his first term in office: Fighting climate change.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
Those words were music to the ears of many in Brussels, who had assumed – wrongly, it turns out – that the White House was poised four years ago to join the EU’s campaign to forge an ambitious global climate treaty.
The irony of Obama’s climate pivot is that it was announced on the same day when the price of carbon in the EU’s emissions trading scheme fell to an all-time low, offering a distressing reminder about the disarray in a market that is the centrepiece of Europe’s climate policy. Read more
Even before the European Court of Auditors released its annual review of EU spending on Tuesday, negotiations over the bloc’s next long-term budget had already turned tense.
A group of wealthy nations, led by theUK, are demanding more budgetary discipline and tighter controls on EU spending. Facing off against them are the poorer member states, led byPoland, which tend to benefit disproportionately from EU funding and are determined to keep the money flowing.
The auditors report is likely to give fresh ammunition to the first camp, while putting the second on the defensive. It found that there were “material errors” in 3.9 per cent of the bloc’s €129.4bn in spending last year – meaning more than €5bn was paid to those who should not have received it. The error rate was up from 3.7 per cent in 2010 and 3.3 per cent in 2009.
The worst offenders were the agriculture payments for rural development, where the error rate was 7.7 per cent, and the cohesion funds used for energy and transport projects, where the rate was 6 per cent, according to the report. Read more
The EU’s former health commissioner has vowed to sue the European Commission in connection with his resignation over an alleged tobacco bribery scandal, escalating a messy dispute between the Maltese politician and his former boss, José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president.
John Dalli’s legal threat was issued during a one-hour press conference he staged in Brussels, the Commission’s home base, a little more than a week after his surprise resignation stunned the EU capital. Read more
Hollande arrives at the Party of European Socialists gathering ahead of the EU summit.
François Hollande, the French president, has just arrived at the socialist confab at The Square meeting centre in Brussels. Read more