Like any good relay runner, the Danish Presidency will attempt to pass on the post-2013 multiannual financial framework (MFF) baton to Cyprus having made good headway. Denmark's stated aim is to have a 15-20-page document - "a negotiation box" - that can be inserted in the June European Council conclusions and be discussed by EU leaders. A change of method can be expected with Copenhagen bringing in a more top-down' approach - broaching the topic of the overall figure early - as compared to Warsaw's mostly bottom-up' philosophy while it held the Presidency.

Denmark's Ambassador to the EU, Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, warns that the MFF will be "the biggest single item" on the Danish Presidency's agenda. Copenhagen will therefore have to put a lot of energy into the negotiations over the next MFF in order to have the first elements of a compromise ready to hand over to Cyprus in the second half of 2012. Initially, the Danes had hoped to have a deal on the table by the end of their six-month stint at the EU helm. This goal was rapidly discarded as the French elections, scheduled for May, would have polluted the debate too much. Indeed, Paris would have attempted to exact too high a price in terms of agricultural subsidies to please the electorate in exchange for okaying the deal on the post-2013 MFF if this debate were to be linked to the presidential election.


With all the numerous legal acts for the next MFF (over 60) published, the Danes will be able to focus the talks on substance, moving on from a rather theoretical discussion under the Polish Presidency. Meetings at a technical level, in the Friends of the Presidency group, will take place on a weekly basis. Negotiations will then move up to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) and the General Affairs Council. Seven meetings of the latter are scheduled during the Danish Presidency and the MFF should feature on the agenda of between four and six of them. Breaking with Warsaw's methods, Copenhagen plans to organise a discussion between ministers about the overall size of the long-term EU budget during the January General Affairs Council meeting. This should open up a...

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