PM Costa battles in Brussels for vital EU funds

Prime Minister António Costa is battling in Brussels as we write to assure Portugal’s development and common agricultural funding don’t suffer cuts for the next pluriannual (seven-year) budget.

The tussle between poorer countries and so-called ‘net payers’ has been bubbling away for months (click here). But the truth is that net-payers, particularly France Germany and Finland, have been digging in their heels – even suggesting further cuts to funds that countries like Portugal consider vital to their nation’s future.

Today, as an extraordinary meeting of the European Council extends negotiations that began yesterday, Mr Costa has shared an image over Twitter showing which countries benefit the most from the pluriannual budget, and those that benefit the least.

It’s clear from the graph, that the ‘net payers’ – often painted as countries that simply have to stump-up and subsidise poorer member states – are in fact ‘net gainers’ too.

Certainly, some of the ‘Cohesion countries’ (which include Portugal) are also among those that benefit the most – but according to the graph, Portugal is not one of these.

Indeed, Portugal is seen to be benefiting way down at the bottom of the scale – and this is why António Costa is so determined not to see any cuts to Cohesion Funding or the PAC (common agricultural policy).

 When negotiations opened on Thursday, Costa told the Euronews television channel that the budget as it stands now is “bad in several aspects.

“It does not correspond to the global financing needs identified by the European Commission and the European Parliament, and it seems to forget that the European Parliament in the end is going to have the decisive word because it can approve or reject it”.

The four largest political groups in the European Parliament “are saying that Europe must have a budget to meet the ambitions that it expressed in its strategic agenda. We cannot continue to promise a lot to Europeans and then give them too little”, he said, stressing the funding at risk is “fundamental” to the union’s identity, and for helping countries prepare for the enormous challenges ahead of transition to a digital society, and ‘the climate transition’.

One of the risks with the current stalemate is that it could delay funding getting to where it is needed, he accepted, but that is the focus of talks today: forging some kind of agreement with netpayers, which also include the ‘so-called Frugal Four’: the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden.

The ‘crisis’ has followed Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, as the UK was one of the ‘net payers’ contributing around €60 billion to the pluriannual budget.

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