European Council Announces New Project Budget

President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy. Photo: Flickr.com/Chatham House

President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy.
Photo: Flickr.com/Chatham House

Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, announced the project budget for 2014-2020 on Friday February 8.  Meeting bi-annually, this body guides the priorities and evolution of the European Union.  Although the Council did not release the specifics for the budget plan, Van Rompuy tweeted that after 24 hours of negotiations it was “worth waiting for.” Compromise was necessary for this meeting consisting of 27 heads of state to reach a consensus.  However, the highly anticipated results of the updated long-term budget have come with mixed reviews.

The most radical change is the 3.4% decrease in the budget, a total of €34 billion. The fields that will bear the brunt of these cuts are infrastructure and technology, including research and digitalization. This has instigated sharp criticism from broadband advocates. They believe that development and access to high-speed internet in rural areas is key to development and small business growth.  Bringing broadband to rural, low-density areas is hardly lucrative, and without the funding from the European Union there will be an even greater delay.  “This would mean it’s up to member states or the private sector to put up the funding… it’s highly unlikely that certain member states would be able to,” said Charles Trotman, a member of the British Country Land & Business Association.

In general, the resulting budget from the European Council is viewed as a victory for the British and Prime Minister David Cameron.  Although not on the euro, Cameron seems to have kept British interest at the forefront of the Council.  However, the four main political parties in the European Union Parliament are collectively opposed to this budget, endangering the necessary majority for the budget to pass.  The 3.4% decrease concerns the Parliament, which stated that it “will not reinforce the competitiveness of the European economy.”

François Hollande did not wish to regard there to be winners and losers of the Council.  He said the diminished budget was “not at all what we had wanted” overall.  With 27 heads of state, Hollande ultimately said it was a “good compromise” and the budget was “the best possible given the context and circumstances.” In France, budget cuts will affect the Politique Agricole Commune (PAC), a European-level organization that controls prices and subsidizing agriculture, but the program will remain intact.

With the main political parties of the Parliament unanimously opposed to the budget cuts presented by the European Council, France and other nations can hope for a reworked budget with increased spending for the PAC as well as developing infrastructure and technology.

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