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EU’s richest countries dig in heels over budget as summit nears

The EU’s richest states have dug in their heels over the region’s forthcoming seven-year budget ahead of a crucial summit on Thursday as the European Council president seeks to ease the blow of spending cuts on poorer countries.

Charles Michel last week put forward a budget framework including a series of compromises over regional development funding — one of the top two items in the EU budget alongside agriculture — as he worked to soften opposition from central and eastern European countries in time for the leaders’ meetings in Brussels.

Member states are grappling with a near €60bn funding gap in the forthcoming seven-year multiannual financial framework (MFF) because of the UK’s decision to quit the EU. As a result, net payers into the budget are being asked to shoulder an extra burden, while net recipients led by the cohesion fund countries are facing tighter spending programmes.

Mr Michel’s proposals have received a mixed response from central and eastern nations that are net recipients of support from the EU budget, with one diplomat arguing that their criticisms have been “reassuringly mild”. But the European Council president still faces trenchant opposition from many parts of the EU, teeing up prodigiously difficult talks.

The richest states in particular remain adamant that they are being forced to assume too much of the budgetary burden under the multiannual financial framework, which begins in 2021. The biggest net contributors to the budget, including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands, want the budget to be kept at no higher than 1 per cent of EU gross national income, compared with Mr Michel’s proposal for 1.074 per cent of GNI.


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