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No deal on EU budget

Two days of extraordinary Council meeting to agree on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) yielded no results. EU leaders ended the summit on Friday 21 February evening without a deal

Such an outcome did not come as a surprise: finding an agreement on a multiannual budget that impacts the expenditure of 27 countries for the following 7 years is never easy. This set of talks is especially difficult as the EU has lost the United Kingdom, a big budget contributor. It will take more than one extraordinary summit, expert say, to reach the agreement and the Council president Charles Michel will need to continue manoeuvring between member states that want to keep their contribution to the EU’s coffers broadly at current levels despite Brexit, and those who think the bloc needs to invest much more in its collective endeavours. EU leaders failed to reach a consensus on a number of issues, ranging from the budget’s expenditure ceiling, the priority areas for funding, and the rebate some net contributors were asking for.

Wide differences remain between the net contributors and the net receivers of the EU funds. So called “frugal” four – the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark – refused to raise the budget over to a 1% of the EU’s combined Gross National Income (“do more with the same”) and to fill up the gap left by the UK’s departure (estimated around 80 bn in the 7 years) with their own national resources.

On the other side, the self-declared “friends of cohesion”, mostly Southern and Eastern European countries push for a more “ambitious” budget equivalent to a 1.11% of the EU27 GNI (in line with the Commission’s early proposal) and are therefore favorable to an increase in the national contribution.

The two coalitions also have different views on the nature of the future budget: If the friends of cohesion are keen for a more “traditional” budget, wanting to preserve CAP and regional development spending at current levels, the frugal four advocate for a much more modern approach, focusing on “modern challenges” of research, innovation, security and migration.

Failing to reach the agreement on the first day of the summit, European Commission put forward a new plan a technical two-page “non-paper” proposing a budget equivalent of 1.069% of EU GNI, setting out a range of concessions — including rebates and more money for regional development and agriculture. Michel’s revised proposal however was highly criticised – Merkel commented that the plan was not comprehensive and lacked details for assessment.  “This proposal was not even presented in full detail because it was already clear that the rough data in this proposal were not sufficient to bridge the differences,” she said. The frugal four reacted to a new proposal in a traditional way, refusing to raise the budget above 1 percent of the EU’s combined GNI.  While some cohesion countries privately appeared content with Michel’s revised proposal, other leaders, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who is pushing for a budget closer to the European Parliament proposal (amounting to 1.3% of the EU’s GNI), find the new discussion document was simply unacceptable.

In conclusion, proposal put forward by the Commission failed to break the stalemate and the EU budget summit ended with no deal. Rumor has it that the next extraordinary EU summit will be convened in March.  

As negotiations are still open to discussion (and to new proposals), we, as cultural organisations, networks and practitioners should continue advocating for an increased budget for culture and the arts. These are concrete actions that you can take in order to support culture in the MFF negotiations:

Download, translate, adapt and sign the template letter to support increased budget for arts and culture in Europe.

Sign the letter as an individual, organisation, network and send it to your heads of states, Ministers of Culture, Foreign Affairs and Finances.

Mobilise the CCS in your country to do the same, start campaigns to co-sign the letter.

Sign and share our manifesto to support the campaign.