Proposals by six member states to cap the EU's future budget would lead to "less European integration," a ten percent cut in EU funds and is "completely untenable," warned Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer.
The European Commission on Wednesday hit back furiously at proposals by six member states to cap the EU budget. The proposals, drawn up by France, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands, would limit EU funds for 2007 to 2013 to one percent of gross national income (GNI), rather than 1.27 percent of GNI. But budget commissioner Michaele Schreyer on Thursday described the idea as "completely untenable." Speaking before the budget committee in the European Parliament, she warned that the proposals would mean an actual spending cut of ten percent and said, "we couldn't continue with European integration" in this scenario. "You would have less Europe", she continued, "and the Commission is of the opinion that we have to say 'absolutely no' to less Europe." Together with five other commissioners, Schreyer defends plans to increase the money made available b EU members states for further union projects from 133 billion euro in 2007 to 158 billion in 2013. Pointing to sharp rises in spending on justice and home affairs issues, the commissioner for this area, Antonio Vitorino said, "I believe this brings Europe closer to its citizens ... it is quite clear that this is an area where operational responses will be needed after 2007." Trade commissioner Pascal Lamy justified the spending on external relations by saying, "the EU is only important if it can act outside the union." But the European Commission's proposals need to be agreed unanimously by member states and bitter fights are in the offing. With the Commission standing firm on their proposals and the powerful "group of six" equally unshakeable, the debate is already off on a difficult start. (EUobserver.com)