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Belgium reluctantly accepts EU budget

19 December 2005

BRUSSELS — Belgium has reluctantly accepted the agreement on the multiple-year EU budget after member states averted renewed crisis over the weekend by backing the third proposal unveiled by the UK presidency. 

The budget will be increased to EUR 862 billion to help fund the development of new EU member states, while Britain agreed to give up EUR 10.5 billion or 20 percent of its rebate.

And as Friday night’s talks extended into Saturday morning, France agreed in exchange to a budget review in 2008-2009, which could lead to cuts in farm subsidies, BBC reported.

The 2007-13 budget represents 1.045 percent of EU output, up from 1.03 percent in an earlier proposal, but still well below the 1.24 percent sought by the European Commission.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the budget is “not perfect, but acceptable”. He stressed the four objectives the government had identified were met.

These were a general budgetary increase, that the new EU member states would be better off, the continued reduction in the UK rebate and no further budgetary discriminations.

However, Verhofstadt said the budget should not be agreed on in the same manner in future. He criticised the fact that national interests had been placed above those of the EU.

“In the future, we must draw up a budget on a white sheet of paper and simply question ourselves what the union needs,” he said.

Verhofstadt welcomed Britain’s commitment to start phasing out its rebate, but warned the European Parliament might only approve the budget if it is boosted by several billion euros.

He said the final budget might be closer to that proposed by the Luxembourg presidency in the first half of this year. That proposal was EUR 9 billion higher than Saturday’s agreed budget.

Meanwhile, Belgian MEPs have reacted with disappointment to the deal, Flemish broadcaster VRT reported.

The chairman of the Christian Democrat faction in the European Parliament, Wilfried Martens said the budget was not big enough. However, he also said it was better than no agreement at all.

Socialist MEP Anne Van Lancker said the budget was “the sum of national egotisms”, while Christian Democrat Marianne Thyssen said it was “something vague cooked up by a bunch of incompetent cooks”.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news