Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Weariness Foretold: The EU Budget Summit

Weariness Foretold: The EU Budget Summit

by Binoy Kampmark
November 23, 2012

There were always going to be disagreements about next year’s EU budget, which started in the evening instead of a sensible morning hour, and occupied officials into the early morning. Various MEPs pitched for an increase in spending for this year (some 7.3 billion pounds) and the next. The European Parliament has been considering restoring some 6.5 billion pounds worth of funding slashed by governments from next years’ budget. The austerity battles continue to remain running affairs. Eight hours of negotiations only ended out in walkouts, suggesting that the summit to agree to the EU’s funding plans for 2014-2020 might be stalled.

The EU Commission’s claim is that an increased amount is necessary to pay the bills. New Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem found that claim barely believable. “I’d question that very much. The Commission has to re-prioritise, that’s just the way it is. Budgetary discipline is not just for the member states.”

The British are being characteristically cantankerous. When in doubt, cut, slash and burn. To be fair, the system of funding in the EU is such that increased contributions will be required from contributor economies if the desired amounts are to be met. Each state has its own domestic program to implement, austere or otherwise. That, at the end of the day, is a problem the EU has yet to resolve.

The rhetoric from Prime Minister David Cameron has been savage. He has threatened using the veto power with tedious regularity, though the move would be diplomatically foolish, given that the member states are not necessarily going to reach agreement anyway – for now. Cameron has persisted in following the line that funding should not be increased above the level of inflation. He has better things to do – namely, cutting domestic expenditure and scorching Britannia.

That doesn’t stop some observers of the British scene wondering if the “Churchillian” spirit in Cameron might recoil from the corner and make a foolhardy appearance – 1 resolutely against 26. “Perhaps because the Churchillian idea of Britain against the rest is so enticing and so much part of our national identity, there’s a tendency to see the budget talks as David Cameron battling a monolithic bloc called ‘Europe’ which wants our money” (Daily Telegraph, Nov 21).

The German position is similar to that of Britain’s, though Cameron’s feistiness has irked Angela Merkel. Bonn has every reason to be concerned by adding more than it needs to, seeing as it is the largest net contributor to the EU coffers. France’s François Hollande was more compromising, despite being at ideological loggerheads with Merkel and Cameron. “I am sure that with Germany, we are going to be – as always – a motor to allow this compromise” (EU Observer, Nov 23).

Others prefer a more balance appraisal about the EU budget. Indeed, as the nine countries or so that are net contributors forge the lines of preventing an increase, others are worried that various programs will simply cease or fail to be effective. Farm subsidies, always a part of common agricultural policy, is a sticking point, not to mention infrastructure projects in more depressed regions of the EU. Whether it is a matter of axing programs or simply not allowing for their increase, the results will be the same.

For Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, relaxation was the order of the day –“there is no drama if there’s no agreement tonight.” Then, his list of concerns: “Our main concerns are agriculture, the regions, ultra-peripheral regions, such as Ceuta, Melilla. If the EU budget goes down, then Spain will have to contribute less. But it is premature to talk about numbers now” (Telegraph, Nov 22). In future, it might well be worthwhile picking a more civilised hour to talk these matters through. Precisely because of their brutal scheduling, writes The Guardian (Nov 22), “these get-togethers are enveloped by an air of weariness foretold. The prospects for a game changer look remote.”

*************

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Myopia Of The Business News

Listening to the business news is a bit like eavesdropping on the radio transmissions from space aliens. There is no discernible connection between the concerns of the captains of these space ships – the bank economists and the finance house spokesmen – and the concerns of ordinary listeners back on Planet Earth. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Clinton, Sanders, Trump And Cruz

Come November, the world will have a new US president-elect and the least unlikely winner still looks to be Hillary Clinton. Right now though, the polls are showing a rocky stretch ahead for her in the immediate future. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Sean Penn And El Chapo - Vanity, Hollywood And Reportage

Leaving aside Sean Penn’s personal history with drug use, let alone alleged efforts to get a slice of celebrity in portraying a drug lord, the furore surrounding his interview with El Chapo is instructive in a few respects. One is worth noting: the blind rage it has provoked with some US political figures and advocates who show how utterly lacking in understanding they are of their own liberal market system... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Podemos, And Spain’s Election Stalemate

By hard grassroots effort, it convincingly rejected the fragmented, individualising forces that had shaped political life for the past few decades – instead, it organized its supporters on the basis of their common, communal experience via collective decision-making aimed at rolling back (a) the austerity-driven cutbacks in public services and (b) the home evictions of those unable to meet their mortgage payments. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Merkel, Refugees And The Cologne Attacks

Huge pressure was already on Angela Merkel’s shoulders prior to the New Year celebrations. When it came in its waves of chaos on the eve, the security services in Cologne were found wanting. The police document from Cologne, leaked to Der Spiegel, speaks of chaos and lack of control. More>>

NZ Media In 2015: ‘Digital First’ Strategies Put Journalists Last

Journalism in New Zealand is threatened by the constant culling of editorial jobs and current affairs programmes… Additionally, journalists investigating issues which are in public interest have become under scrutiny as seen most clearly in the cases of Nicky Hager and Heather Du-Plessis Allen. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news