Multiannual financial framework
Nicosia and Van Rompuy to pull out stops for December MFF deal
By Gaspard Sebag | Monday 23 July 2012
The Cyprus Presidency and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy are aiming to pull out all stops in order to reach a final agreement on the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) among EU leaders at the December European Council. The strong divergences between member states and the tightness of the schedule - with crucial Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) discussions running in parallel - cast a shadow of doubt over this optimistic outcome.
On 19 July, a series of bilateral meetings between Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for European Affairs, Andreas Mavroyiannis, and his 26 counterparts (plus Croatia) came to an end. Member states each presented their priorities, red lines and vision in detail for the long-term budget. “We realise that the distance between member states is even wider than we thought,” says a high-ranking Presidency source. The two largest spending brackets – the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and cohesion – are the most hotly debated topics, so is administrative expenditure. Foreign affairs and justice and home affairs spending - where smaller amounts are concerned - is the least problematic. “What I expect now is more flexibility,” says the source.
Since each head of state or government has a veto, the top one or two priorities of each member state will have to be catered to as far as possible, no matter the size of the country. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán has made it clear, for example, that he will not leave the negotiating table until his country gets a better deal concerning cohesion money in the next period. Naturally, the sensibilities of the net payers will have to be taken into account “very seriously,” says the Presidency source. In that respect, Germany and France carry a particular weight, yet a ‘take it or leave it’ deal between them and a country like Poland is unlikely.
Size, of course, is a big issue. Several net payers have repeatedly been requesting that the Commission’s proposal be slashed by €100 billion, either in commitments or in payments, depending on the weather. One minister tells
Europolitics that this is “a nice club so long as you don’t talk about the details” of where to cut. For Berlin and Paris, the minus €100 billion figuremay be a starting point, says the Presidency source, adding that these two, as the largest contributors, have the biggest responsibility to move things forward and achieve results. Since the growth and jobs agenda has now been clearly linked to the MFF, the minister believes that in terms of figures the EU is ‘getting there’.
Despite the important bridge-building ahead, the Presidency feels there momentum to move forward with the MFF negotiations. Ideally, Nicosia says its ambition is to reach an informal agreement at the highest level at the October European Council, a deal with the European Parliament in November and a final approval from EU leaders in December. “If we ask for more time things are not going to improve,” argues the Presidency source. To clinch a deal, Cyprus and the European Council president will have to fight against the clock and make sure that other important discussions - such as the push toward a greater economic and monetary union - do not overshadow MFF talks.
After mid-September, Van Rompuy will start bilateral meetings in view of the 18-19 October summit. Regarding the MFF, Cyprus believes that it is necessary to have “at least a fundamental understanding in October” if a year-end agreement is to be found. Then an extraordinary November summit could be convened to discuss the more mature of the two issues (long-term budget or EMU), according to the Presidency source. One diplomat sees this as “logical sequencing”. Nevertheless, this November European Council hypothesis was rubbished by Van Rompuy’s cabinet.
If the past serves as an indicator, getting an agreement at the highest level on the MFF at the first attempt will be difficult. Back in 2005, after the June fiasco, a deal was found in December among leaders. The formal agreement with the EP was then signed in May 2006.