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New EU row over spending

Published on 16/12/2003

16 December 2003

MADRID – Spain was embroiled in a new row with its European Union partners over spending Tuesday.

Six of the EU’s richest states have called for the capping of the bloc’s future budget, which could lead to a cut in aid to its poorer nations.

Germany, Austria, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Sweden said the budget should not exceed 1 percent of the EU’s gross national product from 2007 onwards.

Their letter came just days after Spain and Poland blocked a deal on the EU’s future constitution at Brussels talks.

Spain and Poland are likely to see the move by the EU’s richest nations as a threat.

But Madrid has so far not reacted Tuesday to the move.

The European Commission has also reacted angrily to the “letter of the six”.

The letter sparked an immediate response from Poland, where Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said the expanding bloc “cannot function on the principle of carrots and sticks”.

In a reference to Germany’s economic downturn, the letter says EU citizens would not understand if the EU budget were exempted from the painful consolidation efforts carried out at home.

The letter’s proposal would slice EUR 25 billion from the budget which the European Commission is expected to propose.

In a swift reply, European Commission President Romano Prodi said that with less money it would simply not be possible to do what EU governments and the rest of the world expected in terms of foreign aid and improved border and immigration controls.

“Miracles… are not my speciality,” Prodi said in a statement, adding that they did not seem to come easily to EU member states either.

They stubbornly stood up to the EU’s heavyweights over the constitution – and now Spain and Poland look certain to pay the price.

A UK Government spokesman claimed the letter was not related to the collapse of the talks.

“Spending restraint is not about punishing anyone,” he said.

Diplomats also say the letter was drafted before last weekend’s EU summit broke up in acrimony over voting rights for Poland and Spain.

The current ceiling on EU budget stands at 1.24% of the EU’s gross national product.

[copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news