More than just a budget: Europe's financial future

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By Emily Commander
More than just a budget: Europe's financial future
Copyright  REUTERS

It is the European Union's first budget for the 27, rather than the 28, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wasted no time in setting out his new, more streamlined, stall. So, what is it all about?

"The new budget is an opportunity to shape our future as a new, ambitious Union of 27 bound together by solidarity."

Jean-Claude Juncker European Commission President

1. Achieving more with less

No surprises here. Like everyone else the EU wants to achieve more with less money. However, even though the Commission wants to make resources go further, it is nonetheless asking for increased funding contributions to meet increasing commitments.

This was not at all popular with the Dutch or the Danish Prime Ministers, who face Euroscepticism at home and don't want to contribute any more to European coffers.

2. Streamlining

The European Commission wants to make is budget more modern, simple and flexible. It says it has learnt its lessons from the past (no doubt including the complaints made by Brexiteers) and will cut red tape, streamline programmes, and improve its responsiveness, to events such as the migrant crisis. 

It all sounds great in principle, but doubtless there will be complaints when people realise that it is their pet programme that is being streamlined.

3. Flexing muscle

Perhaps most controversially, the budget includes plan to reduce subsidies to countries that don't "respect European values" and break the rules. In making this provision public, the European Parliament's Brexit Coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, took a swipe at Hungary, and Poland is widely believed to be vulnerable here too.

It remains to be seen whether this policy will get through. It is precisely the sort of measure that so enrages Brexiteers and other Euro-sceptics, such as the UK's John Redwood.

4. Cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will see a 5% budget reduction, a move that is likely to hit small farmers hard. The CAP is one of the most divisive and expensive European policies of all time, and for all those who fear reductions, there are many who feel that the cuts do not go far enough, particularly in the environmental lobby, which thought it would benefit more in the Commission's switch of emphasis.