EU BUDGET: EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WOULD CHALLENGE SPENDING FREEZE AT 1% OF GDP.

PositionEuropean Union, gross domestic product

"It is important to avoid Europe making the same mistake as Helmut Kohl on the reunification of Germany, who argued it could be achieved on the cheap when the cost is already Euro 800 billion. Those who now claim that enlargement can be achieved without funds are lying to their citizens", Daniel Cohn-Bendit insisted, presenting his letter to the six European countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden) which in December demanded a freezing of the European Union budget for 2007-2013 (see European Report 2830 for further details). "Heads of State and Government are selling a lie in always demanding more from Europe without ensuring it the means to operate", he added describing attacks on all spending except for farm spending "for fear that Chirac might throw a tantrum" as "indecent". Mr Cohn-Bendit identified three areas which, in addition to economic and social cohesion and sustainable development, justify the maintenance of a payment appropriations ceiling of 1.24% of GNI or even an increase to 1.50% in the longer-term: the Erasmus student exchange programme in the context of which available grants should be trebled, the definition of a "genuine European audiovisual policy" and the creation of a "European action fund" for intervening on the world stage and responding to crises.

EPP group President Hans Gert Poettering has also described the letter from the six net contributors as "not a good thing". He believes "an open debate is needed within the Council and Parliament on the financial perspective, but this letter creates the impression of a wish to punish countries for their behaviour on another dossier", an allusion to Spain and Poland, current and potential beneficiaries of the Structural Funds opposed to France and Germany in the context of the Inter-Governmental Conference on the Constitution. Mr Poettering argues that "to the extent that the missions of the enlarged EU are certain to expand, it would not be wise to set spending once and for all at 1%". PES group President Enrique Baron Crespo drew a similar line insisting "Europe cannot be constructed on the cheap".

Commission Communication.

Members of the European Commission are meanwhile gearing up for a seminar on January 25 at which they are hoping to finalise a Communication which President Romano Prodi will present to the European Parliament's plenary session in Brussels on January 28. A large majority within the Commission team is calling for the...

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