Explainer: Complex Budget Talks For Inward-Looking EU

Rikard Jozwiak, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 07.02.2013

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European Union prime ministers are descending on Brussels primed for yet another bruising fight that could last all weekend. It is the 1 trillion-euro ($1.3 trillion) EU budget for the next seven years that needs to be settled, and sharp contrasts persist among member states -- just like three months ago, when they failed to clinch a deal. The budget will determine the outlook of the EU in coming years, and it is likely that a more inward-looking EU will emerge once the dust has settled.

What's at stake during the summit?

What and how much the EU should spend in 2014-20. The European Commission's budget proposal totals 1.033 billion euros, of which 85 percent will come from EU member states, mainly through fees paid based on their gross national income (GNI). Four-fifths of the budget will go toward the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its Cohesion Policy, which funds projects in poorer parts of the union. But it is the fine details that are causing acrimony, according to Janis Emmanouilidis at the European Policy Center.

"The overall budget is 1 percent of the overall EU economy. So now we are fighting about a small portion of that 1 percent. So in the end we are not talking about a huge amount of money," Emmanouilidis says. "But it is important because it is also political bargaining which is happening. Member states' governments want to go back and tell their home audiences that 'we fought for our interest and in the end we were able to get a compromise which suits our purpose.'" […]

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