European Council/Multiannual financial framework
Van Rompuy frames debate around growth and targeted spending
By Gaspard Sebag | Monday 25 June 2012
Ahead of the EU summit, on 28-29 June, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy sent a questionnaire to the member states’ leaders on the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) in order to frame the debate around growth and jobs and targeted quality spending. While they are not expected to discuss numbers, the heads of state and government are scheduled to approve procedural conclusions to guide the negotiating process in order to achieve the objective of finalising an agreement by the end of the year.
For the first time, EU leaders will hold a discussion on the next MFF on the basis of the ‘negotiating box’ put together by the Danish Presidency. Two questions have been put to EU leaders in order to streamline the debate at the European Council: “How can the different policies in the new MFF best contribute to the creation of growth and jobs and enhance the quality of EU spending? How should we prioritise spending among the different policy areas and better align it with the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy?” According to the draft conclusions, seen by
Europolitics, EP President Martin Schulz is due to take part in the opening session of this debate.
Seeing as the discussion at technical and ministerial level on the overall size has not yet been kick-started, EU leaders are expected to restate their national positions. Net payers will ask for more savings to be found, the countries from the Friends of the Cohesion group should request that cohesion policy be defended (see box), etc. In any case, for the ‘figures discussion’ to begin, the Commission’s MFF regulation proposal needs to be updated to take into account three elements beforehand: the spring macroeconomic forecast; new data concerning the regions; and the cost of Croatia’s accession, planned for mid-2013. This is expected in July.
Failing progress on the numbers, the draft conclusions encourage the two legislative arms to press on with the adoption of sector-specific legislation. n
Visegrád group defends cohesion
The Visegrád group has come out at the highest level to defend cohesion policy, which “should not become a victim of possible cuts in the MFF”. Meeting in Prague, on 22 June, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic sent a letter to the Commission, European Council and Parliament presidents calling on them to maintain the course of deep structural reforms at national level and at the same time to take further steps at European level to boost employment and growth. Concerning the latter point, the four prime ministers believe that the 2014-2020 MFF should be used to its “full potential” by focusing spending on investments to increase competitiveness. “In this context, the EU cohesion policy should be considered as a key investment tool,” reads the letter. If better spending – a euphemism for cuts – is required, then this should be applied to areas of research, development and innovation, not cohesion.