Funds currently going to the U.K. “should not simply flow into pre-existing structures.”
Author: Janosch Delcker
BERLIN – Germany doesn’t believe the EU’s budget should automatically remain at its current level once the U.K. — the largest net contributors with Berlin — leaves the bloc, Germany’s deputy finance minister Jens Spahn told POLITICO.
Neither should current U.K. spending from the EU budget be reallocated without a thorough debate of future needs and tougher conditions for the recipients, Spahn said in an interview ahead of budget negotiations in Brussels taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The looming departure of a major net contributor, combined with a mid-term review of the bloc’s seven-year budget cycle, means this round of budget talks could have far-reaching implications for the future of the European Union. The elephant in the room this week is whether the annual budget will remain around its current €155 billion of commitments and €144 billion of payments after Britain departs — which would require some member countries, especially Germany, to cough up more cash.
“There certainly is no automatic mechanism that other countries fill in for one country that decides to leave,” said Spahn in an interview at the finance ministry in Berlin. “But we can certainly discuss whether, and to what extent, parts of the U.K. contributions will be replaced eventually, which has to be decided jointly by all members states, particularly by the net payers.”
Budget negotiations traditionally involve horse-trading where the Parliament asks for more money from national governments via the Council, which tries to keep spending as low as possible while trying to influence spending in their favor.
Funds currently going to the U.K. “should not simply flow into pre-existing structures. Instead, we have to tie it to the question how we can do more in the area of migration policy, neighborhood policy, research and the fight on terrorism,” said Spahn, arguing for extra funding for the EU border agency Frontex.
“In the event that the Brexit negotiations will begin in spring 2017, the U.K. will leave the EU by mid-2019. In May of that same year, a new European Parliament will be elected, and we will have a new EU Commission. It makes sense to negotiate beforehand where we’re headed,” Spahn said.
Germany and the U.K. have traditionally been allies in the budget talks, broadly speaking, because of their joint insistence on fiscal discipline. Spahn argued that the Brits should be fully involved in drafting the budget as long as they remain members.
“Of course, the U.K. will be represented within the institutions as long as it is still a member of the European Union,” he said.
Since 2011, the European Commission has released annual recommendations for all member countries on how to manage their economies, with limited success. Out of 528 recommendations the Commission issued in 2014, for instance, only seven had been fully implemented one year later, according to an inquiry by Sven Giegold, a German member of the European Parliament for the Green party.
“When a country wants to get support from the EU, it should accept to implement these recommendations,” said Spahn. “But if a country claims access to an EU-fund, then at least part of it — and I would say for the most part — should be linked to the country-specific recommendations.”
Asked about Giegold’s data, the German deputy minister said that, “for sure, too little happens when it comes to implementation.”
“[We] need stronger incentives for the member states to implement these proposals,” he said.
The EU’s current budget cycle, or Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), currently runs from 2014 to 2020, but Germany will push to bring the start of the next cycle forward a year to 2019.