Less and less and less… That seems to be the tale of the negotiations over the EU budget. According to numerous reports (see this from the BBC), Tony Blair is dashing around Europe to shore up support for a 1.03% of GNI limit to the EU budget, down from the already squeezed 1.06% that was proposed by the Luxembourg Presidency a few months ago. But why all the fuss?\r\n\r\nLet”s put all of this in perspective. The UK”s annual contributions to the EU budget are about â€šÃ‡Â¨14 billion, we get about â€šÃ‡Â¨8 billion back and the rebate about â€šÃ‡Â¨6 billion a year. So what is that comparable to? Cleaning up the UK”s stockpile of nuclear waste will cost upwards of Â¬Â£60 billion over 50 years (see this from The Guardian), so a bit less than â€šÃ‡Â¨2billion per year for the taxpayer! Strikes me that the contribution to the EU budget is quite good value in comparison, and when did you last see Blair battle like hell about the cost of a nuclear cleanup? Oh, sorry, he seems to have forgotten that problem when he keeps on about the need for a new nuclear power plant.\r\n\r\nWorst of all, these budget proposals deprive the new Member States of cash.\r\n\r\n
- Enlargement to the east may be the EU”s greatest challenge, but I also believe it is its greatest opportunity.
\r\n\r\nThat was Tony Blair in a speech in Warsaw in 2000. How long ago do those sentiments feel now? Polish PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said rightly said that Warsaw would prefer no budget to a bad budget.\r\n\r\nSo why all of this fuss over the budget? Are Blair”s hands tied by the eurosceptic views of the Chancellor? Or does he think he can teach our European counterparts a lesson, ?â€ la Maggie?\r\n\r\nOne wonders whether Blair and the other leaders bickering over this are aware of the size of the total EU budget – â€šÃ‡Â¨106billion – the size of the budget of the government of Denmark, i.e. miniscule! Do they just think that this fight makes them tough, macho, male ”statesmen”?\r\n\r\nI think an adaption of the old Henry Kissinger quote is apt as a conclusion to this entry. Kissinger said ”University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small”, so this ugly debacle about the budget and its horrid hypocrisies from the UK side should be summed up with:\r\n\r\n
- EU budget negotiations are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.