EU hits budget quagmire as clock ticks on

The European Union has failed to make progress in negotiations on how much the bloc should spend in 2015, with its governments struggling to even set out their position for the talks despite a looming deadline.


Billions of euros are at stake for recipients such as poorer regions, farmers, researchers and students.

“Think of the critical time we are in in Europe – a time when we do have to regain the trust of our people in a Europe that is capable to work for them,” the bloc’s top budget official, Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, warned ministers meeting in Brussels.

They had been expected to finalise the governments’ position on the 2015 EU budget so that negotiations with the European Parliament could start on Friday, ahead of a Monday deadline for a deal.

But the ministers ended their talks after around 10 hours without an agreement, leaving their ambassadors to continue negotiations over the weekend.

The talks with the parliament were postponed to Monday.

Jean Arthuis, the chairman of the legislature’s budget committee, complained about a lack of “respect” towards his institution after his negotiating delegation was made to wait for most of the day “for nothing”.

“We are exasperated … by the attitude of the council (of EU governments),” he said.

The bloc’s budgets are funded mainly by member states.

Most of the money is then redistributed among the 28 countries through various subsidies and support programs.

Showdowns over the EU budgets are not unusual, with member states traditionally seeking to rein in expenditures while lawmakers tend towards more generous spending.

But this year’s negotiations come after elections which resulted in a rise in anti-EU sentiment, upping the pressure for the bloc to deliver.

“We don’t want to give arguments to eurosceptics and europhobes,” Arthuis said.

For 2015, governments want to limit EU spending to 140 billion euros ($A209.99 billion), amounting to an increase of 3.3 per cent from this year.

The European Parliament is pushing for a budget of 146.4 billion euros, or an increase of 8 per cent – a rise that German State Secretary Steffen Kampeter on Friday criticised as “not acceptable” given the financial belt-tightening going on in much of the EU.

If the two sides do not reach a deal by midnight on Monday, Georgieva will be sent back to the drawing board to draft a new proposal.

If no EU budget is in place by the start of 2015, the bloc will be restricted to spending one-twelfth of its current budget per month until a new deal is struck.