Reuters: EU budget deal no closer after leaders' all-night talks21 February 2020 | 11:45 | FOCUS News Agency
Some want extra funding to match new ambitions to fight climate change and manage migration, some want a continued focus on development and farm aid, and some are pushing for greater realism in recognizing the 75 billion euro ($81 billion) fiscal hole left by net contributor Britain’s EU exit.
As the leaders prepared to reconvene around 1000 GMT, a baseline proposal to cap the budget - which will run from 2021 to 2027 - at 1.074% of EU gross national income, or 1.09 trillion euros ($1.18 trillion), was facing criticism from all quarters.
“It is important to finally have a figure that is supposed to be distributed,” a frustrated Andrej Babis, the Czech prime minister, told reporters on leaving EU headquarters in Brussels the middle of the night.
Dubbed the Frugal Four, the bloc’s wealthy net contributors - Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden - want to put the budget ceiling at 1% of GDP and refuse to pay more to make up for the loss of Britain’s payments.
Their less developed peers are the main beneficiaries of EU funds and want to keep generous aid coming regardless.
“If that won’t be clear (on Friday) ... and those states (the Frugal Four) will keep insisting, I think there’s no point continuing the summit,” Babis said, summing up the lack of progress.
After an initial session of all 27 leaders on Thursday afternoon, their chairman - former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel - broke for separate face-to-face meetings with each leader.
These went through the night and until 0600 GMT on Friday, with Michel asking that leaders name their top priorities rather than a long list of demands, as well as any sweeteners that could help them sell a deal at home, diplomats said.
“The bilaterals took forever. But it seems things have not moved, the frugals keep on insisting on their position,” one diplomat said on Friday morning.
An EU official confirmed: “The position of the frugals has not changed an inch... so there is not much to go on.”
Leaders are expected to resume their session at 1000 GMT.
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