EU budget talks begin

The European Commission on Wednesday presented the first draft of the EU budget for 2021-2027. It proposes increases in funding for migration, border control and defence and cuts in the agricultural sector. Payments to member states are to be contingent on compliance with the rule of law. The budget debate has begun.

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Le Quotidien (LU) /

Stakes are high for Brussels

The EU will need to deliver some good arguments when deciding how to divvy up the money in everything from the agricultural budget and structural funds to the defence budget, Le Quotidien stresses:

“ It's certainly not possible to reduce the draft budget to these individual items. It will, however, be very difficult to explain to the public why buying more weapons should take priority over giving support to the farmers and the poorest in the Union. The bazaar is open: some countries have already announced their unwillingness to cough up more money. The 27 member states need to agree on a fair distribution as quickly as possible, otherwise the EU will lose credibility and become even more divided.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Decision time for Poland

The EU Commission's announcement that EU funding will be made contingent on a state's adhering to the rule of law will force the right-wing government in Warsaw to make a decision, Gazeta Wyborcza concludes:

“On the one hand some politicians - perhaps the prime minister too - stress their willingness to compromise. ... On the other the hawks in the PiS will take the view that with this move Brussels is offering them a chance to exit the EU. They will launch their election campaign under the banner of defending Poland's independence vis-à-vis the dictatorship of the EU. They will fuel nationalist hysteria and talk of Catholic Poland as a fortress against the nihilistic West. The EU Commission's decision may also force us to state clearly whether we plan to barricade ourselves in our fortress or return to the European course.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

Use EU funding intelligently

The Bulgarian government must change its attitude towards EU funding if it wants to be taken seriously in the negotiations on the new EU budget, writes Dnevnik:

“First we must stop talking about 'securing' EU funds. This term is damaging and conducive to corruption. EU funds must be seen as investments. This is one of the key ideas behind the new EU budget. They should be used to attract further investment and not just as a means to plug financial gaps. The proposed EU budget is far from perfect, but it opens up huge opportunities for Bulgaria. Whether we make the most of them depends on us. It depends on us whether the budget drags us out of our lethargy - or deeper into corruption. The main goal now must be to become quickly and actively involved in the negotiations.”

Die Presse (AT) /

No alternative to reallocation

Boosting the budget for migration is a good idea, Die Presse writes approvingly:

“The situation in and around Europe has changed to such an extent that a readjustment of the main items on the budget is firstly appropriate, and secondly desirable. The major threat to cohesion among the EU member states is no longer the absolute wealth gap or any differences in the quality of the circulation infrastructure, but the pressure on the (southern) outer borders of the EU. Supporting border states like Greece and Italy is a top priority in the next few years. The redistribution of funding in the EU budget will no doubt have to come at the Eastern Europeans' expense.”

Wpolityce.pl (PL) /

Money-grabbing states

Making EU funding contingent on compliance with the rule of law is a feeble attempt at concealing the EU's true motivation, wPolityce.pl comments:

“Is it possible that this mechanism will become EU law? Many states are no doubt against this. But just as many use 'the rule of law' to squeeze as much as they can out of the EU budget. ... And a lot of money is at stake here. Yes, bitter concessions will be necessary. But as long as they don't change the basic direction of the [Polish government's] reforms, there's no reason to be dissatisfied. Since the government hasn't made any concessions so far today it can yield on certain issues without distorting the idea behind its reforms.”

PestiSrácok (HU) /

Brussels dictating the conditions

By making EU funding dependent on compliance with constitutional principles the Commission is creating a culture of despotism, PestiSrácok rails:

“It's enough that in the eyes of the Commision we are 'violating constitutional criteria'. That's like trying to control the cucumber according to geometrical criteria - it's not an exact category. When Brussels says someone is violating the law, then it is, and that's that. Yes, one can always appeal the decision. If a qualified majority of the heads of government in the European Council oppose such an accusation, the Commission will withdraw it. Do you see how absurd that is? Until now such a majority was needed for a decision, now it's needed to block a decision. It's as if not the manager or the owner were determining a company's business policy, but the accountant.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

There must be a penalty

Cutting off the money supply is the right way to discipline member states, argues the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“The boundaries must be drawn where the basis of coexistence in the EU is in jeopardy. This is the case when the rule of law is no longer guaranteed. ... It's true that cuts will also affect those who are not directly responsible for the government's shortcomings, or in other words the citizens. But in a community of democracies like the EU, citizens bear responsibility through their votes not only for their own country but also for the Union as a whole. If they don't fulfil that responsibility, it has consequences. Also of a financial nature.”

De Standaard (BE) /

It's always the EU's fault

No sooner had EU Commissioner Hermann Oettinger presented the budget than a storm of criticism broke out, De Standaard complains:

“The cacophony shows where Europe's problem lies: the Union is always to blame. Whether it does too little or too much. ... When it doesn't help member states enough financially and when it costs too much. ... Now the rhetoric mills are grinding at full blast. The media on the Continent are copying the English tabloids. Even though the entire European budget accounts for little more than one percent of the total income of the member states. Despite all the things that can be criticised about Europe a little restraint is called for here. When the budget comes into effect in 2021 we will be able to see how the British are getting along outside the EU.”