‘Hidden costs’ of Nice will break budget, say MEPs

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Series Details Vol.7, No.7, 22.2.01, p7
Publication Date 22/02/2001
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Date: 22/02/01

By John Shelley

MEMBER states may not be able to afford the reforms to the EU institutions they agreed at last December's Nice summit, according to MEPs.

Parliamentarians say the hidden costs of the treaty deal have necessitated a wide-ranging review of financing forecasts for the next five years - something governments have always insisted is not an option.

"The new requirements will likely be unfundable below the current ceilings," said Joan Colom i Naval, the Parliament's rapporteur on the subject.

At the Berlin council in 1999, EU nations agreed the maximum budgets for the Union for each year until 2006 and have insisted those limits must stay. But Colom i Naval says the changes member states agreed at Nice will cost extra money which was not anticipated anywhere in the financial perspectives.

In a working document due to be considered by the Parliament's influential Budget Committee, he goes through the treaty article by article, pointing out how many of them will cost hard cash to implement.

For example, he says the decision by Union leaders to allow smaller groups of member states to go it alone on policy development will eat into the EU budget.

Though the treaty says the financing of most aspects of any enhanced cooperation initiative will be funded by the individual countries taking part, the administrative costs will be borne by the Union as a whole.

Colom i Naval adds that it is precisely these administrative budgets that are already being stretched to breaking point. "The administrative costs will have to be paid for from within the community budget and this means we may well need a special revision of the financial perspectives," he said. "I am not very confident that member states will let this happen, but I am not at all in favour of a reduction in the budget in other areas in order to pay for it."

Colom i Naval says new promises to give emergency aid to countries affected by natural disasters could soon blow a hole in the budget ceilings. He also points to a pledge by EU leaders to fund European political parties and a planned overhaul of the European Court of Justice as similarly costly.

The creation of a contact committee between national and European auditors will also not come cheap, he argues; neither will plans to expand the size of the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

Member states may not be able to afford the reforms to the EU institutions they agreed at the Nice summit in December 2000, according to MEPs,

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