PM campaigns for agreement on EU budget

16th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

16 June 2005, BRUSSELS — Despite the expected failure of European leaders to agree on the proposed EU budget at a crisis summit on Thursday, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has told MPs he will push for an accord.

16 June 2005

BRUSSELS — Despite the expected failure of European leaders to agree on the proposed EU budget at a crisis summit on Thursday, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has told MPs he will push for an accord.

European leaders are gathering in Brussels on Thursday night and Friday to discuss the 2007-2013 budget. The ramifications of the French and Dutch 'no' votes against the EU Constitution are also on the agenda.
 
However, a majority now appears in favour of placing the constitution ratification process on ice. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has even said a period of reflection would be "open" and without limit.

And Verhofstadt told the Belgian Parliament on Wednesday he will call together a joint sitting of the Senate and Lower House later this year to discuss the future of the union, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.

"The supporters of greater European integration are no longer in the majority. We must find allies and mobilise them," he said.

It is a Belgian tradition for the prime minister to discuss the agenda of an EU summit on the eve of the gathering with the nation's MPs, Senators and MEPs.

Verhofstadt surprised many by saying on Wednesday the main problem was not the ratification of the EU constitution. He said the main issue now was the final level of European integration, newspaper 'Het Gazet van Antwerpen' reported.

He believes the EU is a crossroads and a decision has to be made for either a political union or a free-trade zone. He said thought must also be paid to the possible finality of the union, because only then could the public become re-involved in the European project.

Meanwhile, a majority of Belgian politicians advised Verhofstadt to reject the tight European budgetary proposals drawn up by Luxembourg, which holds the rotating EU Presidency.

The Liberal VLD leader dismissed the advice, but said he will demand larger growth of the research and development budget, aiming for 10 to 11 percent per year instead of 8 percent.
 
Verhofstadt also wants a fairer division of economic support, particularly for the Henegouwen region of Belgium. Thirdly, he is opposed to reduced funding for economic growth and employment and will call for a reduction in the British rebate.

Luxembourg has offered a last-ditch compromise of a freeze on the controversial British rebate, but fears remain EU leaders could fail to reach agreement on the bloc's budget.

This is despite a warning from EC chief Barroso that the EU faces permanent crisis and paralysis if it does not resolve its differences.

Nevertheless, former Belgian EC research commissioner Philippe Busquin has said the Belgian government should reject the EU budget. He said the budget would be a "catastrophe", due primarily to the tight funding for research and development.

Though he did not reject the concerns outright, Verhofstadt said he will push for a deal on the EU budget, but refused to speculate on the outcome of talks.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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