Will there or won’t there be an eleventh hour agreement on the new EU budget. Tony Blair is clearly burning the midnight oil, but the foreign ministers did not seem to be unduly impressed:
EU foreign ministers’ talks on the 2007-2013 budget ended after less than a minute on Monday (12 December), with the UK set to issue new proposals on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s summit.
Britain is set today to publish revised proposals designed to broker a deal on a seven-year EU budget, with the new offer still expected to include heavy cuts to funding for eastern Europe. According to the FT:
Tony Blair, British prime minister, is expected to soften his proposals at the EU summit starting in Brussels on Thursday, including giving up more of the UK budget rebate and restoring some of the planned cuts in the new member states.
In pushing for a tighter EU budget for 2007-2013, the UKâ€™s inital offer proposed cuts of almost 10 per cent in funding for eastern Europe in a total budget of â‚¬847bn ($1,000bn, Â£571bn).
Tony has also found a new argument, the cuts in Eastern Europe aren’t as bad as they seem, since these countries don’t know how to spend the money even when they get it (hmmmmm).
Britain claims there is little harm in reducing payments to poorer new members because they are already finding it difficult to spend the much smaller amounts they are being allocated in 2004-2006. But central Europeans say the British analysis is flawed because it looks at figures for this year, which give no indication of how well the billions of euros in structural funds will be spent.
Meantime, in a decision which is getting decidedly less coverage, French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy may have pulled the plug on the enlargement process itself by refusing to approve official EU candidate member status for Macedonia. I’m not sure what this implies. Any comments from our experts out there?