Archive for the 'Budget & Finance' Category


16 December 2005

Tony Blair is an able politician. His fellow government leaders are slightly less, but still quite, able politicians. In the coming days, the 25 of them will try to come to a unanimous agreement on the EU’s long term budget, the Financial Perspectives 2007-2013 (see Finances in perspective for the previous episode). Judging from the latest text proposed by the UK presidency, and taking account of the unexpected optimism I hear around me (although today the tone seemed to be different), our dear leaders will agree on an EU budget that is a shameless, provincialist sham of a common enterprise.

Of course this is what can be expected with the decision-making system we have. When each and every of 25 able politicians who are only answerable to their own constituencies can veto an agreement any time they like, and when the whole thing has to be brokered by another able politician who is only answerable to his own constituency and has a giant stake in the outcome, the result is bound to be riddled with the effects of pork barreling. However, after the defeat of the European Constitution last summer and subsequent grandstanding on “reform” and “leadership” and “reconnecting Europe to the people”, this is much, much worse than what could be expected, even within the constraints posed by reality. (more…)

Reformed CAP even less irregularity proof

7 December 2005

Further on the topic of a previous post, it seems that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is being reformed in exactly the wrong way. At least if you agree (as any sensible person would do) with the EU’s Court of Auditors that public money should only be spent according to criteria that can be checked. But there could be an alternative: giving local voters a direct say on agricultural policy. (more…)

Court of Auditors lambasts member states on EU spending

15 November 2005

The European Court of Auditors today published its annual report on EU spending in the year 2004. This is the first full budget year of the enlarged EU reviewed by the Court in its new, post-enlargement, composition, and the positive effects are already visible: The Court is much more outspoken than previous years in its criticism of the EU member states.

And rightly so! After all, no less than 80% of the EU budget is spent directly by the administrations of member states, not by the European Commission. And the only reason why the Court has refused, for the eleventh year in a row, to deliver a Statement of Assurance (Déclaration d’Assurance, DAS) on the 2004 budget, is that it finds it impossible to check whether spending by the member state administrations, not the Commission, is done in accordance with the rules. (more…)

Finances in perspective

13 June 2005

As some of you may be aware, national governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament are currently negotiating the EU’s new multiannual “framework budget” (Financial Perspectives) for the years 2007-2013. This agreement between the EU’s main players outlines its strategic policy choices for seven years to come, and probably more. Its precise contents are therefore incredibly important for the EU’s future.

Pressure on the negotiating parties has increased considerably after the double ‘no’ in France and the Netherlands, but in two opposing directions: Firstly, to come up with some good news to keep the EU going, which means being flexible and reach an agreement. Secondly, to take voters’ concerns into account, which means standing firm for “the national interest” and use the veto when necessary. So although the Luxembourg Presidency intends to finish the negotiations this month, during the European Council meeting of 16-17 June, it is by no means clear that it will succeed.

Reading the British press and weblogs from the anglosphere, one could easily get the impression that abolishing the British rebate, which limits the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget, is the main issue on the negotiating agenda and that it was put there by a French government in trouble blaming it on the Brits. If only it were that simple, and the UK that important.

The current “negotiating box”, a document published 6 June on the Presidency’s website, outlines the Perspectives’ main budget lines and unresolved dilemmas. Net contributions per country are only one of them, but the most striking thing here is not that Britain is paying more than France, but that both the UK and France pay considerably less than other net contributors. (more…)

The big picture: a short guide to EU negotiations

21 March 2005

This year is a decisive one for the EU. Not in the way every year is declared decisive by newspapers writing their New Year’s editorials, but in a very real way: (more…)