After intensive preliminary talks on thursday evening in brussel, summit chief herman van rompuy was optimistic after the fronts had seemed hardened for a long time. "I am confident that we can now agree on a final compromise at this table". We just have to do it," he said after presenting a new compromise. However, he did not mention concrete figures at first.
His previous compromise proposal had provided for total spending of 972 billion euros for the years 2014 to 2020. This had failed at the november summit, mainly due to resistance from austerity-minded donor countries such as germany and the united kingdom.
German government circles nevertheless did not rule out failure. The talks were "very, very difficult," according to a statement made on the fringes of the deliberations of the 27 EU heads of state and government. "It is not at all likely that it will succeed."In the meantime, however, there is talk of lower budget figures than at the failed summit in november.
The talk was of some 960 billion euros. This corresponded to exactly one percent of the EU’s economic output – just as berlin had demanded. 94 percent of the money goes back to the member states.
Van rompuy said: "we need a budget of agreement that takes into account the difficult budgetary realities throughout europe"…". Budget must also help tackle challenges like unemployment. If everyone around the table showed a sense of compromise, a compromise was possible, he said.
On her arrival in brussels, german chancellor angela merkel had stressed that "the positions are still quite far apart."British prime minister david cameron had declared that further cuts would have to be made compared to the first attempt. At that time, van rompuy had proposed a financial framework, excluding ancillary budgets, of 972 billion euros.
Without agreement on a new seven-year plan, a budget would have to be set annually for the period starting in 2014. It will probably be more expensive for the geberlanders. If the second attempt this weekend is also unsuccessful, EU diplomats say it will be a long time before the EU makes another attempt. Each country has a veto on the budget, because agreement is only possible by unanimity. While donor countries such as germany and the uk want to spend less, southern and eastern european countries are fighting to keep their billions from brussel.
Chancellor merkel and france’s head of state francois hollande pulled in the same direction at the financial summit. Both are largely in agreement on the outlines of a compromise, according to diplomatic sources. Berlin had already announced that germany would probably have to pay more to brussel in the coming years. Like merkel, austria’s chancellor werner faymann said the risk of failure was "always there".
Earlier, british prime minister david cameron and hollande had reaffirmed their positions. Hollande insisted on agricultural payments, of which france is the biggest beneficiary with around 10 billion euros a year. If europe "forgot about agriculture, I would not agree with that". Financial planning must also call for growth and finance solidarity.
Cameron was tough: "if the numbers don’t come down, we won’t have a deal."Another hardliner, dutch prime minister mark rutte, was cautiously optimistic: "it will be hard, but it is possible."
The red pencil is now also to be applied to the EU administration – a permanent demand of cameron’s. Yet this accounts for only a small part of the budget. The largest items are payments for europe’s farmers and the demands of poor regions.
If the heads of state and government agree, that doesn’t mean the budget is through – because the european parliament also has to approve it. EU parliament president martin schulz had threatened to tell parliament no if the sum was too low. "When i am told today "bird eat or die"", then i don’t think the european parliamentarians will put up with it."