The European Commission must balance the credibility of new political objectives which the EU has set itself, in particular the Lisbon Strategy, with the need to manage the legacy of current policies, notably the big-spending ones like the CAP and Structural Funds. This requires setting FPs for 2007-2013 that, by the end of the programming period, should be approaching the financial commitment threshold of maximum own resources: in this case, 1.24% of GNI. This is equivalent to 1.27% of GNP, a figure decided at the Berlin Summit of March 1999 at the same time as the Agenda 2000, which fixed the FPs for 2000-2006. In this context, the Commission says it will implement a complete phasing-in for new Member States while safeguarding a revised structural policy for current Member States. This means championing the EU's competitiveness by raising investment in research, training and trans-European networks, engaging in a new pro-citizenship policy, reinforcing the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, as well as providing the EU with sufficient means to be a key partner and player in the world arena.

By 2013, political priorities could thus be turned on their heads, allowing a smooth transition from traditional FPs, dominated by the farm budget, to a financial perspective which corresponds more to future challenges: the relative share of the CAP would fall to 28% compared with 40% today, structural spending would show a slight rise to 32% of the General Budget, expenditure linked to the Lisbon priorities would reach 16%, with 7% going to external relations policies. In its Communication, the Commission does not try to hide the fact that the financial limits it has set itself are rather narrow. So meeting all the objectives decided by the Council, such as raising R&D spending in Member States to 3% of their GNP, or Euro 35 billion more from now to 2010, with the EU Budget taking up 10%, may well be an uphill struggle. Ultimately, "An alternative framework of 1.3% would better answer the needs of the EU and would be more reasonable", underlines the Communication.

More flexible management.

The debate on the length of the medium-term FP ended a few weeks ago with the balance tipping in favour of seven-year programming. However, the Communication recommends that, at the end of this period, subsequent FPs should last 5 years in order for the financial framework to be in line with European Commission and Parliament mandates. The FP structure, however...

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