EU Leaders Discuss Budget Deadlock, Constitutional Crisis


Roger Wilkison

European Union leaders have begun a crucial summit in Brussels amid fears that the crisis over rejection of the bloc's constitution by French and Dutch voters will be compounded by a deadlock over the union's long-term budget.

Although it is an unusually sunny day in Brussels, the mood at the summit is glum. The EU was plunged into a political crisis when the French and the Dutch rejected the constitution that was meant to streamline decision making in the 25-nation bloc. Now, a financial crisis looms, because failure to agree on a budget could paralyze the EU's investment programs.

Getting a deal on the EU's future spending from 2007 onwards was a priority for Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker. He saw a budget deal as a signal that, despite the constitutional defeats, the EU can still forge a common front and move ahead on vital issues. But Mr. Juncker now admits that an accord is nearly impossible.

Analyst Alasdair Murray, at London's Center for European Reform, says he does not hold out much hope for a successful summit.

"The idea that, you know, the EU can show that it's business as usual by getting a deal on the budget is out. Similarly, it's going to be still a problematic discussion about what to do abut the constitutional treaty," he said. "I think we will get some form of words, but the words will rather reveal the disagreements rather than the agreements, and whilst most people will believe the treaty is effectively dead, there will be one or two countries that continue to mutter about carrying on with the process."

Britain and some other countries say the constitutional process should be put on hold. France and Germany say ratification should go ahead in other countries despite the "no" votes, which effectively put the constitution in the freezer though, perhaps, not in the morgue.

But it is the budget battle that has most EU officials worried. French President Jacques Chirac is insisting that Britain give up the rebate it has had on its EU budget contributions for the past 20 years. The rebate, given to Britain when it was a much poorer country than it is today, saves it $5 billion a year. Mr. Chirac's call has been echoed by other countries and by the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso.

Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
"The situation is no longer the same, and there are now ten new members who are much poorer than Britain, and I'm sure the British government recognizes that," he said.

Britain says the rebate is non-negotiable unless France agrees to review the EU's farm subsidy program, from which it benefits more than any other country. Mr. Chirac says "no" to that idea.

A budget deadlock would especially hurt the new member states from Eastern Europe that are counting on investment money from Brussels. Dariusz Rosati, a Polish member of the European Parliament, says the fight over money is unseemly and could hinder European integration.

"Of course, they undermine the confidence in the union, and many citizens may ask themselves the question whether the European construction is still valid and still viable," he said.

The battle over who gets how much money always brings out the worst in EU politicians. Analysts say it is easier for EU leaders to grandstand before domestic audiences and complain about how much they contribute to the bloc instead of talking about the advantages they gain from EU membership.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs