Between the Twenty-Seven, power struggles and budget bargains

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in Brussels, on February 16.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in Brussels, on February 16. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

When it comes to talking about money, the 27 countries of the European Union have a hard time getting along. On the eve of the summit which is to bring together, Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February in Brussels, the heads of state and government and try to define the budget of Europe for the period between 2021 and 2027, the protagonists are still sharpening their final arguments. And, to hear them, it is difficult to see how they could reach an agreement, even if they would spend the night there. But, after all, negotiations of this type are always accompanied by a very theatrical scenography which does not necessarily prevent a happy episode.

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Charles Michel worked hard to reconcile each other's positions before this week’s meeting. The President of the Council thus hopes to accompany the beginnings of the new commission of Ursula von der Leyen. And turning the page on Brexit, even if the recent departure of the British on January 31 does not simplify the negotiations. The country was the second largest net contributor, after Germany, and its exit represents a shortfall of 75 billion euros for Europe over the seven years that its multi-year budget covers.

" I advised (to European leaders) to take a few more shirts than they usually put in their suitcase ", said the former Belgian prime minister, who did not rule out playing overtime. Emmanuel Macron, in any case, had not, Tuesday evening, changed his agenda and still planned to meet farmers overseas Friday evening, before going to the Agricultural Show the next day …

Decline in major policies

For now, the proposal that Charles Michel put on the table, Friday, February 14, crystallizes the oppositions. It is based on a total budget of 1,095 billion euros over the period 2021-2027 (in constant euros, that is to say, taking inflation into account), or 1.074% of the gross national income of the Twenty -Sept, against 1.16% between 2014 and 2020. And is manifested by a decline in the major policies of Europe, the common agricultural policy (CAP) and the cohesion funds (intended for the least developed regions), which represent still, in this scheme, more than 65% of the total.

The rest is used to finance the functioning of institutions, research, digital technology, defense, migration, or even Erasmus. And 25% of the budget is allocated to the climate transition, insists on Brussels, where we want to convince that the new priorities of the commission are not forgotten. An effort to put it into perspective, since almost 20% of the current budget of the European Union is already devoted to this cause.


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