EUROPEAN COMMISSION President José Manuel Durão Barroso has slammed Britain’s new proposals to balance the EU budget. The former Portuguese Prime Minister said last week that, in their present state, the budget proposals were unacceptable and had no future.
Britain has come up with a 900 billion euro package, shaving 30 billion euros off the Luxemburg budget, which represents a 1.03 per cent cut. Most of the cuts would be made in regional aid earmarked for the poorer Eastern European states.
Britain, which holds the six-month rotating EU Presidency until the end of 2005, wants the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy to be completely reviewed. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, says that it is ridiculous that 40 per cent of the EU’s budget is being spent on propping up agriculture that only generates around five per cent of total EU wealth.
Under Blair’s sweeping proposals, Portugal would stand to lose 17.2 per cent of its net gains in subsidies from other EU countries, representing a massive 600 million euros per year in rural development. Portugal’s stance against the changes is backed by France and Italy, also with high agricultural production.
But Blair says that money from net contributors should now be diverted to technologically modernising the newer EU member states. The new British proposals particularly affect the so-called adhesion policies which amount to some 300 billion euros spread over seven years for all the 25 member states. Agriculture would be reduced to two billion euros for all member states, while justice would lose 700 million euros under Blair’s budget proposals.
Barroso said in Brussels that Blair’s cuts were meant for a “mini Europe not an enlarged one” and added that they were “not realistic if we are to consider today’s enlarged Union to be as strong as we would want”.
“There is a contradiction when it is said that we want a Europe that is strong, open, modern and competitive – in other words, a Europe with a sense of ambition. But, you (Blair) present a budget that doesn’t have any ambition,” Barroso added.
At the same time, British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, has guaranteed that Portugal’s interests would be preserved in the new European Union budget. “Portugal will continue to be a net receiver of liquid EU funds – in other words, it will still be getting more than it is paying into EU coffers,” he said.
Moving onto the offensive, Britain had been told by many EU countries that, as one of the richest countries in Europe, it must contribute more funds. EU leaders have told Blair to re-draft the budget proposals, since failure to do so could be deeply damaging for the EU.
Britain has only days left to come up with a compromise alternative for the 2007-2013 budget. It has offered to cut its own rebate and pay eight billion euros more into EU coffers if the EU’s agricultural policy is made more realistic.
Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates said: “It would be a disaster if an agreement on the budget was not reached by the 25 member states.”