EU budget: Wanted - a Goldilocks recipe?

David Cameron carrying a ministerial red box in Brussels

The EU is trying to cook up a "Goldilocks budget" - not too hot for the countries like Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden who want to see spending frozen and not too cold for the countries of the South (Spain, Portugal, Greece) and East (led by the biggest net beneficiary Poland) who want to see spending on them maintained.

Yesterday's late night talks lasted little more than an hour and showed no sign of finding that recipe. One British source told me that the man in the chair, the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, doesn't have a plan and doesn't have a way to get there. The necessary preparatory work had not been done I was told.

When David Cameron arrived for a second day of talks on the EU budget he declared in a show of calculated grumpiness: "It isn't the time for tinkering. It isn't the time for moving money from one part of the budget to another."

The tinkering the prime minister was complaining about was the offer made last night to cut funds to the EU's poorer regions (so-called cohesion funds) a little less than originally proposed and cut subsidies to farmers (as ever the key concern of the French) a little less too.

Normally the way such competing demands are reconciled in Europe is by increasing the size of the pot - making the budget bigger to accommodate everyone's needs. That is not possible here, so last night's proposals were to be paid for by changing the mix of ingredients.

The European Commission's plans for an expanded fund to pay for infrastructure to link EU countries - roads, broadband and energy - was one easy target. It is clear that this is Van Rompuy's chosen approach - find a little more from that fund, a little more from administration (Eurocrat pay and pensions), a little more from here or there and hope that all 27 leaders agree it is acceptable, if not just right.

This is a problem of politics not economics. The numbers involved are not huge but the stakes are. That's why leaders are preparing for a long haul.

The Swedish Prime Minister has just said on arrival: "I am not in a hurry, it will take a long time."

Cooking up a recipe which satisfies so many different appetites can't be done in a hurry. Sadly for those waiting to see what emerges.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

UKIP - power struggle, not soap opera

All the bizarre news stories that have emerged from UKIP in recent days reflect a power struggle within a party that aspires to hold the balance of power after the next election.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I think the ill informed comments about commission staff salaries and pensions are, as usual, ill informed. The staff regulations were reformed in 2004 which resulted in a vertual standstill in salary increases unless promoted on merit. The impact is that in recent years almost no applicants for commission posts from the UK, Netherlands or Germany.
    To live abroad you need incentives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    No97 grumpy
    'overwhelming anti - EU vote.
    The only vote we have had on the issue resulted in a massive vote to stay in, although I recognize many changes have taken place since then.
    Margaret led the Tory campaign.
    David has indicated that he will lead the next one.
    He calls the UKIP/BNP members 'fruitcakes'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Nothing will be done about the EU Budget until after the German elections. There is, as in the UK an overwhelming anti-EU vote, all the stronger because the German standard of living has been reined in to fund the ambitions of German europhile politicians.Unsurprisingly, Nick seems to have missed this truism. Post-election, Germany could well be as Europhobic as we are.Watch out for squalls then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I was taught by a master ..."

    (I'll bet you were)

    "He grew up on a Silesian estate and had a schoolmaster who made him learn the names of the 321 medieval German princedoms"

    I' guessing the high point of your dinner parties must be when he regurgitates all 321 names......zzzzzz

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Politics aside, and I don't agree with a lot of what David Cameron has done or said, I believe what he said after the conference will strike a note with almost all the electorate. Whatever your political stance on Europe there can be no doubt that none of the contributing countries can afford the unbelievable wastage of money by the unelected commissioners, their high salaries, pensions and perks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    #93 "AND Ed pretending to be eurosceptics"

    sums labour up , only in their interest as usual

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    coats 35

    Bit of a farce, yes, but a summit lacking in intensity; I guess because they have until the end of 2013 to sign off the budget. You never do something until you simply have to, do you? No, me neither. Only thing I do before it becomes an emergency is order another Guinness.

    I find Labour's position on this quite interesting. We now have both Cam AND Ed pretending to be eurosceptics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    #91 well do not borrow form them in the foirst place then its that simple.

    so where would you borrow the money from then ?

    yes we need to rebalance away from the TB/GB/AD model of milking the city into more manufacturing

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    #90. IR35_SURVIVOR

    You have to realise that the City exists to get others into debt.
    It's what they do. No debt - no bonuses.

    Like it or not the City needs debtor nations.
    For without them economies would simply lock up. Freeze.

    The question we should be asking ourselves is "do we need the City?"

    Only if we need a hole in the head.

    Everybody would gain if this drain was closed off. Staunched.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    #86 think they migh be asking what the F-PPIIGS bring to the party other than debts , requiring handouts and failure to get their houses in order etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I am amazed at some of the comments. Surely these people can raise themselves above party politics and thinks of UK limited.
    Our PM, whoever that was, should be getting a fair deal for the UK. I am sick of seeing the UK pay billions to the EU & see that money go to other countries ! We have ensure that the money goes to help our own people. As far as I am concerned" charity starts at home"

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    @ 53.John_from_Hendon

    'Try reading what is written rather than giving vent to your biliousness.'
    ~ ~ ~
    What biliousness? My digestion is very placid today! :-)

    JfH: 'Your crass stupid and destructive anti-Europeanism is damaging this country - grow up!'
    ~ ~ ~
    If YOU bothered to READ my posts you would see I am pro-European.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    #84. covo

    So Cameron is on your side eh?

    Welcome buddy. We don't often get complete plonkers here.
    Or perhaps you are a typical Tory backer.

    Who said "Same thing! ?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    All the other leaders will be thinking and asking each other:

    "What exactly is this bloke bringing to the party?"


    No toil - that's the problem.

    Hubble bubble.

    Just trouble.

    And they have to stick there and take it.
    Knowing all along that this plonker wants his city friends to be given carte blanche to shaft em all.

    How long will they take it?

    And then his city friends will cry..

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    So, it looks like the PM has managed to forge a 'no deal'. He'll be pleased enough with that (although he didn't get to use his veto).

    A person who won't be so pleased is Herman Van Rompuy - he'd have been very keen (since it's in his job spec) to get an agreement. That he failed doesn't reflect particularly well on him. 27 heads went totally unbanged.

    And I say this as a big Van Rompuy fan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    David Cameron went there as an equal participant in these talks on the EU and at the table alongside Germany, France, Sweden etc who are known as the most powerful nations in the talks but back home he is up as a economical failure to appease the usual doubters, when nothing is further from the truth. Well done Mr Cameron you are trying to stand up for us and not rolling over and playing dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Aah, resorting to insult instead of argument.

    A significant part of the EU budget is used in subsidy - not for growth investment (which is notoriously unpredictable anyway if you know your economics) - but for 'getting the wagons in a circle'.

    Protectionism, in other words.

    Hope you listened to BBC R4 WATO today. Polish contributor to prog gave the game away!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    So much waste of money, so little time. The unelected EU Commission members spend more in a month on subsidised food alone than most European families, including the UK, spend in a year.

    Until the unelected EU Commission declare their purpose, their costs, or any legal legitimacy for their powers - then they are illegal under international law. European Parliament with MEPs that's enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    The Republican-inspired Greenspan-King implemented CreditCrunch fails to halt China but workers & the poor suffer here under the ToryLibDems & financial capitalism crushes EU welfare spending. But our govts have billions SAVED UP with our banks via the unnecessary bailouts. It's a rainy day. Take the whole finance industry into public ownership-we'd be quids in. Dosh enuff for welfare AND the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I was taught by a master to never attend a meeting without all the facts at my disposal and am surprised how often people rely on emotion or appeals to the prejudice of the crowd..

    He grew up on a Silesian estate and had a schoolmaster who made him learn the names of the 321 medieval German princedoms, which he did to teacher`s and parents satisfaction.It was a lesson he never forgot.


Page 1 of 5



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.