|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.18, 3.5.01, p4|
TORTUOUS budget negotiations in the run-up to enlargement will be made even more difficult by the very treaty changes that were supposed to clear the way for expansion of the Union, warn MEPs.
They say the deal hammered out at Nice on the voting strength of member states in Union decision-making gives more power to the countries with the firmest grip on the EU's purse strings.
And this could allow them to cripple the already tough talks on how much spending money the EU institutions should be given.
"The re-weighting of votes in Council actually makes it easier for the largest net contributors among the EU-15 to form a blocking minority," explained Spanish socialist MEP Joan Colom i Naval.
"This will considerably complicate the budgetary negotiations necessary to prepare the EU for enlargement."
In a report on the budgetary implications of Nice, Colom i Naval points out that under existing procedures the votes of the four biggest contributors to the Union budget are needed to block any proposals under qualified majority voting rules.
However, once the Nice Treaty is ratified only the votes of the largest three net payers - Germany, the Netherlands and the UK - will be required.
Colom i Naval says that by giving them more voting strength to the very countries which would have to bear most of the cost of any boost to EU budgets, the Union has made it much more difficult to get increases approved.
"This is particularly unfortunate in view of the negotiations which will be necessary to adjust the financial perspectives and the annual budget for enlargement," he says.
Colom i Naval also points out that the "verification mechanism" included in the treaty, allowing a member state to request that a qualified majority comprises at least 62% of the EU population, also favours Germany because it is the bloc's most populous country.
"Germany need only assure itself of UK support, plus the votes of any other country except Luxembourg, in order to prevent a qualified majority from being obtained," he said.
The European Parliament argues that to meet the costs of enlargement it will be necessary to revise the budget ceilings for the next five years laid down at the Berlin council in 1999.
The big cash-contributing countries are vehemently opposed to this and MEPs say Nice will make it easier for them to get their way.
Tortuous budget negotiations in the run-up to enlargement will be made even more difficult by the very treaty changes that were supposed to clear the way for expansion of the Union, warn MEPs.
|Subject Categories||Economic and Financial Affairs, Politics and International Relations|