Schroeder bombshell overshadows EU discussions
23 May 2005, BRUSSELS - The announcement by German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he will seek early elections for this autumn overshadowed EU budget discussions in Brussels on Sunday night, with foreign ministers unable to come to an agreement on expenditures from 2007 to 2013.
23 May 2005
BRUSSELS - The announcement by German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he will seek early elections for this autumn overshadowed EU budget discussions in Brussels on Sunday night, with foreign ministers unable to come to an agreement on expenditures from 2007 to 2013.
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, which now holds the EU's rotating presidency, said that despite intense differences of opinion and a British veto threat, an agreement could be reached at the 16-17 June summit in Brussels.
"There is a lot of dissatisfaction, but all governments want to decide this matter in June," he told journalists.
The announcement by German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he will seek early elections for this autumn, after his Social Democrats suffered a state election defeat, overshadowed the discussions.
"That means that it won't be easier," Asselborn said. "We will have to wait and see what happens, but we know that times before elections are never easy."
A prominent official with the European Commission said that elections in Germany coming a year earlier than scheduled put in doubt what kind of financial decisions Schroeder would be able to make at next month's summit.
Germany along with the five other biggest net contributors to the EU budget - Britain, France, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands - want to limit the EU outlays to 1 percent of gross national income, or EUR 815 billion.
The commission, along with countries who receive more in EU agricultural and structural subsidies than they pay into the budget, are seeking 1.24 percent, or EUR 1.03 trillion.
The Luxembourg presidency has suggested a compromise of 1.05 to 1.1 percent, or EUR 900 billion.
But commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists that an agreement on the Luxembourg compromise would mean that the European Union would not be able to achieve numerous political goals that have already been decided by the member states. Those goals included increasing development aid and pushing for the so-called Barcelona Plan to make the union the most dynamic market in the world.
The hopes of the new member states would also be disappointed on large transportation projects that have already been approved, Barroso added.
He said he doesn't believe that the required approval of the European Parliament is certain if the union decides "on a cheap Europe".
The meeting in Brussels began with a threat from Britain to employ its veto amid calls for its rebate to be abandoned.
British foreign secretary Jack Straw said London would resist all attempts to trim or cut a rebate arranged in 1984. Chancellor Gordon Brown said on Sunday that the rebate was "wholly justified".
The EU foreign ministers were not expected to reach any decision on Sunday, as expenditures, and thus the payments that each member state has to make, is a main topic on the agenda of the next EU summit.
If a compromise cannot be achieved in June, an agreement was seen as unlikely this year, as Britain is taking over the EU presidency in the second half of 2005.
Subject: German news