EU's hard to love $1.3T budget

Feb. 9, 2013 at 11:51 AM
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BRUSSELS, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The $1.3 trillion, seven-year European Union budget agreed to this week in Brussels is the product of an every-man-for-himself process, political analysts said.

"What we're seeing is that European integration is very important to European leaders as long as it doesn't imply that someone has to be paying for someone else," said Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

"The budget negotiations are the most visible sign of member states winning and losing from the European Union. The result is a totally parochial budget that is poorly adapted to rapidly changing times," said Hugo Brady, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Reform.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the all-night budget negotiations included a speech by the prime minister of Latvia, Valdis Dombrovskis, in which he questioned why smaller, poorer countries, like Latvia, received less in agricultural subsidies per acre than richer nations, like France and the Netherlands.

The budget maintains previous disparities, but leaders included an agreement to narrow the gap over time, the Times reported.

"I wouldn't say I'm happy. But we agreed," Dombrovskis said after the budget passed.

Agricultural subsidies were trimmed from 42 percent of the total budget to about 38 percent in the budget, which is smaller than last year's.

A possible victim of cutbacks, the Galileo satellite navigation project was granted a stay of execution and given an outlay of $8.4 billion that would keep it going through 2020.

After the negotiations, British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters, "I battled off every attempt to change it in any way," referring to the rebate Britain receives each year.

Cameron is not alone in his concern that his constituents are disgruntled about a system in which their taxpayer dollars go to help other countries. Cameron recently said if re-elected he would present a referendum to voters on whether they want Britain to remain a member of the EU.

French President Francois Hollande said the budget was "not the agreement I wanted."

"The problem in Europe is that we are not alone," he said.

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