EU contribution up 42 percent? Merkel is in a delicate situation

In March 2018, the SPD MEP Jens Geier achieved a triumph in the negotiations about the grand coalition ruling in Berlin: the head of the German Social Democrats in the European Parliament managed to incorporate a commitment to a better-equipped EU budget in the coalition agreement. Now Geier’s comrade Markus Töns, Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament of the Bundestag, wants to open the gate opened by his colleague.

To a press report that the German EU contribution should increase by 42 percent annually, Töns said: The EU budget for the next seven years is “chronically underfunded”. That is why, according to the member of the Bundestag, “We already agreed in the coalition agreement to strengthen the EU budget. Great Britain’s exit from the EU has also made it clear that Germany’s contribution to the EU budget will and must increase. ”

Grand coalition ready for higher contributions

Real words to read in the coalition agreement. On page nine it says: “We are ready to make higher contributions from Germany to the EU budget.” There is no other way: Brexit alone increases the contribution of the Federal Republic to the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the EU from around at present 20 to 24.5 percent.

It will not stop there. In May, the European Commission submitted a revised budget proposal, which foresees a total of 1.85 trillion euros for the period from 2021 to 2027. A € 750 billion corona aid package is priced in. The Commission plans to raise the money for this on the international financial markets.

Nothing is decided

There remain 1.1 trillion that have to come from somewhere, mostly from the member countries, even if one can perhaps increase the EU’s own resources, income from taxes and customs duties. As a precaution, Brussels made it known: “The exact amount of the national contributions will only be known when the Member States have agreed on the next long-term budget.” Therefore, all the figures that are currently being thrown into the room are already spoiled at the moment of their publication. The further negotiations between the member states will be decisive.

Berlin’s delicate negotiating position

The Federal Republic is in a special position from July 1. In the middle of the year she takes over the EU presidency. Many German European politicians would have preferred the tiresome budget issue to be off the table by then. Because in the prominent role as an intermediary among 26 partners, Berlin cannot afford to emphasize its own interests too strongly.

The draft for the Federal Republic’s presidential program was therefore rather vague and tortuous: “We will also give high priority to the rapid conclusion of the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the years 2021 to 2027. The EU budget must be based on the current challenges in the Corona crisis, on the one hand, and on the longer-term strategic goals of the European Union in a changing world on the other. “In many European capitals, of course, one would prefer the clear and clear sentence from the Coalition agreement of 2018 read: “We are ready for Germany’s higher contributions to the EU budget.”

Should the giant hide behind the dwarfs?

The negotiating skills of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) will be asked for a lot this week at the upcoming EU summit on the MFF. She knows about the distributed interests among the heads of state and government. Again, a lot will depend on the “Economical Four” Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. You are not only concerned about the payment of Corona aid on a grant basis. Vienna, for example, is also opposed to a substantial increase in its own EU contribution.

During the euro crisis, Germany, with its firm commitment to spending discipline and healthy households, could be certain that it knew such countries behind it. They hardly needed to raise their own voices, the big partner in Berlin was then beaten. Now Merkel might be tempted to hide behind this group of states, which her opposition jokingly describes as the “dwarf uprising”. The neutral mediator Germany, so the justification could be, must also take care of their interests – which are very similar to their own.

The largest economy as the first point of contact

However, anyone who wants to overcome the corona shock across Europe, also fight climate change, make the EU’s digital and other infrastructure fit for the future, reliably protect its external borders, promote research and innovation, open up even more educational, job and encounter opportunities for young Europeans, military cooperation strengthening and also promising stability as for the Western Balkans – the one who has to spend more money.

The first point of contact in the EU is always its largest economy, which benefits the most from the internal market and the euro. We are talking about the Federal Republic. From the country whose grand coalition committed: “We are ready for Germany’s higher contributions to the EU budget.”

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