Tough talks are expected when the Commission and EU states meet for the first time this weekend to discuss the EU’s budget until the middle of the next decade.
The meeting will be the first face-to-face discussion between the two sides on how to fund the EU from 2007 to 2013. EU Commission President Romano Prodi and his team will present the case for an increase in the EU budget, but can expect short shrift from some member states, including the 'big three' -- Germany, France and the Britain. Last December, the leaders of the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria signed a joint letter to Mr Prodi calling for the 2007-2013 EU budget to be capped. They said that contributions should be no higher than one percent of gross national income (GNI), significantly lower than the current ceiling of 1.24 percent. But the Commission has ignored the plea and published proposals for large increases over the seven years. Under the Commission’s plans, member states would contribute just over €900 billion over the spending period - known in Brussels jargon as the ‘financial perspective’. Brussels argues that more cash is necessary if the EU wants to be a major player on the world stage, both in terms of foreign policy clout and in meeting its objective to become "the most competitive economy in the world by 2010". The Commission also believes that the eve of enlargement is not the time to begin cutting EU funds. (EUobserver.com)