Will EU relationships turn sour over money?
The EU leaders have begun their consultations on the community's budget for the 2021 to 2027 period. At the summit on the weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed linking funds to criteria such as how many refugees a country takes in and observance of the rule of law. A nonsensical proposal, some commentators say. Others warn that bitter struggles over distribution lie ahead.
An implausible proposal
Helsingin Sanomat is not at all keen on the idea of making EU funding conditional on adherence to the principles of the rule of law:
“It's likely to be difficult to define terms for allocating funding. The budgets, deficits and debts of the EU countries will be monitored and recommendations made on that basis. But how can deficits regarding the principles of the rule of law be clearly measured? And on what basis? ... If the idea is to send a warning to countries that bite the hand that feeds them, this is a rather implausible way of going about it.”
Against common sense
Political scientist Tamás Lánczi finds the proposal problematic. On the pro-government blog portal Mozgástér he writes:
“There are several problems with Berlin's initiative. First, the German government was so successful in managing the refugee crisis that Germany has been without a government for several months now. So the 'German government's plans' have a massive legitimacy deficit. ... Secondly: the German plans go against common sense in that the EU cohesion fund is all about helping backwards regions. Must these regions now take in large numbers of refugees in order to receive EU funds? ... Thirdly: the German plans reflect the interests of Germany. But why should these interests weigh more heavily than those of Hungary?”
Hard times ahead for Prague government
Merkel wants to make EU financing contingent on refugee policy and that could pose problems for the Czech Republic, public broadcaster Český rozhlas comments:
“Merkel wants a grand coalition so she's willing to make concessions to the SPD. Its top politicians like Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Schulz have long been in favour of cutting subsidies. Now the chancellor is calling for a joint EU asylum system to prevent crises and ensure an egalitarian distribution of refugees. Solidarity can no longer be a one-way street. ... The Czech government's reaction is diametrically opposed to that of the SPD and may well reflect the majority opinion in the Czech Republic. But that doesn't change the fact that our international image is also important. And just as important is whether we cotinue to receive money from Brussels. In that respect the new Czech government is facing hard times.”
Europe at odds over money
The row over making funding conditional on meeting certain terms won't be the only bone of contention in the budget negotiations, the Brussels correspondent of Il Sole 24 Ore Adriana Cerretelli predicts:
“In the end a compromise that enables the adoption of the budget rules will be reached. But the next and no less bitter dispute between the north and south is already looming. Because this is about how big the budget will be for 2021 to 2027, about setting old and new political priorities and about how to fill the hole left by Brexit. ... Germany is willing to increase its contribution but France and Italy are still hesitating, while the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden have already made it clear that they won't pay more.”