Open Europe Blog

We’ve been listening to the national press briefings of several EU leaders following the deal on the EU budget (which we analyse here). And you got it – they all won! (well, almost). Here goes:

David Cameron (UK)

  • The British Prime Minister said, “I think the British public can be proud that we have cut the seven-year credit card limit for the European Union for the first time ever.” 
  • He went on, “The only way you can best protect the British taxpayer is to keep overall spending down, and that’s what we’ve done, and also to keep what remains of the rebate, and it is completely untouched.” 
  • On the possibility of MEPs staging a secret ballot vote on the next long-term EU budget, Cameron said, “Of course the European Parliament has a role, and we should respect that. But I don’t really understand secret ballots. Parliaments and votes should be open, should be transparent, people should be accountable for how they cast their votes.”

Angela Merkel (Germany)

  • As usual, the German Chancellor – the power-broker – did not give away too much during her presser. She said, “The effort was worth it…in my view this agreement is good and important.” 
  • She also warned that “the negotiations with the European Parliament won’t be easy”.

François Hollande (France)

  • The French President, a bit sulky, said this was “the best deal” on offer given the circumstances.
  • He repeatedly stressed that the UK wanted payment appropriations to be lower than €900bn over seven years, while France was insisting on €913bn (see here if you are not familiar with the commitments vs payments distinction). According to Hollande, given that the final compromise was reached at €908.4bn, “Everyone will say who made the bigger step” – a way to suggest that David Cameron had given up more than he did.
  • According to Hollande, France will also save some €140m a year on its financing of the various rebates. On the rebates, the French President made his most interesting remark (see here, around 16:00 in). He said, “I knew that there was no possibility to put into question the British rebate, because you know that it is provided for by the [EU] Treaties [which, by the way, is incorrect]. Therefore, it is immutable” at least until the Treaties are re-opened for negotiations. The British, he added, “should keep this in mind, including when they demand treaty changes.” If this is not a threat, then what is?  
    • He said that funding for agriculture has gone down overall, but he has made sure that aid to French farmers will remain at the same levels as in 2007-2013. Now, that’s what you call ‘solidarité’, right?
    • Finally, the French President admitted that the UK was not on its own in these negotiations, as “other countries wanted more for themselves and less for Europe”.  

      Mario Monti (Italy)

      • The (caretaker) Italian Prime Minister hailed a “particularly significant improvement” in Italy’s net position compared to other big net contributors to the EU budget.
      • He said Italy has secured an extra €3.5bn in funding compared to the compromise proposal on the table at the November summit.
      • Furthermore, Italy will save around €600m a year on its financing of the various rebates.

      Mariano Rajoy (Spain)

      • The Spanish Prime Minister said the deal is “very good for Spain”. Contrary to expectations, Spain will remain a net recipient from the EU budget over 2014-2020 – which is huge. 
      • Rajoy was particularly pleased by the fact that Spain “will get almost 30%” of the new fund for youth unemployment included in the next long-term EU budget. 

      Mark Rutte (Netherlands)

      • The Dutch Prime Minister opted for a lower profile. He said, “Of course you never completely get it your way with 27 member states, but I think that we as the Netherlands can be satisfied.” 
      • He described the deal as a “sober” budget, and said that the Netherlands “worked well together” with Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and the UK.  

        Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark)

        • The Danish Prime Minister said her country “came here with three priorities, and we satisfied all of them”, pointing out that she had secured an annual rebate of €130m.

        Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden)

        • The Swedish Prime Minister said the deal was “a surprisingly good result”.
        • He argued that, contrary to fears that Sweden’s contribution to the EU budget would increase, it is, in fact, set to drop slightly.

        Donald Tusk (Poland)

        • The Polish Prime Minister spoke of “a huge success” for his country, stressing that Poland’s receipts will increase by €4bn despite the long-term EU budget facing a €38bn cut from the previous seven-year period.
        • He went even further, claiming today was “one of the happiest days of my life”. Wow!

        Werner Faymann (Austria)

        • The Austrian Chancellor was less enthusiastic than many of his counterparts. He said the deal struck this afternoon is “presentable” for Austria – which managed to secure a rebate, although it will be phased out by 2016 (see the final deal here).

        Petr Necas (Czech Republic)

        • The Czech Prime Minister was pleased about his choice to threaten a veto. He said, “If the Czech Republic had not seriously threatened to block the negotiations, then it would not have been possible to negotiate a better outcome.”
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