ENDA KENNY TRAVELLED to Brussels today for talks ahead of this week’s negotiations on the European Union’s seven-year budget.
The Taoiseach is representing Ireland as it currently holds the rotating Presidency of the EU Council. He is joined by the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.
Budgetary meetings to secure a €1 trillion deal will be held later this week. At its last meeting in November 2012, the Council said it made good progress but did not reach a full agreement on the EU budget for the next seven years.
During Thursday and Friday’s discussions, Ireland will have the responsibility of engaging with the European Parliament on agreeing the overall budget. It will also manage about 70 pieces of legislation implementing the budget across the EU’s activities.
Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore is also locked in budgetary talks today as he chairs the first General Affairs Council of Ireland’s Presidency.
The GAC will be focusing on the Council’s attempts to reach an agreement on 7 and 8 February.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Gilmore said, “This is an extremely important week for Europe and for Ireland. It is of critical importance that we get a deal on the EU budget because what Europe needs now is certainty, and securing agreement on a seven-year budget (2014 – 2020) would provide a great deal of certainty.
“In my role as chair of the General Affairs Council I will be stressing the need for a common approach as we work to reach agreement. We’re talking about a budget that will come close to a thousand billion euro here, but I am confident that we can get this done.”
The Tánaiste is due to meet the European Parliament’s Multiannual Financial Framework negotiation team.
The stumbling block to a deal has been EU spending, with some countries – including Britain – looking for a cut to the average €900 billion expenditure and others asking for budget increases to ensure infrastructure and long-term projects are not at risk.
For France and Ireland, agriculture is a key issue as both countries want the 37.5 per cent spend maintained. A failure to agree a budget would mean rolling this years’ plan into 2014 on a month-by-month basis with an adjustment of 2 per cent for inflation.