The European Commission is due to present proposals for the post-2013 multiannual financial framework (MFF) at the end of June 2011. In theory, this means the Hungarian Presidency will not have to deal with this matter. In practice, the orientation debate has already begun and will continue while Hungary is at the helm of the rotating Presidency.
Janos Martonyi, the Hungarian foreign minister speaking at the London School of Economics, on 7 December, foresees "a huge fight". The first act of this battle unfolded at the December summit when the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Finland agreed on a common position to ask for a "real-terms freeze" on the next MFF. A host of other member states, however, will want to defend EU spending staunchly. Martonyi says these countries, including his own, want to first have a discussion about the policies, the common agricultural and cohesion policies in particular, before opening up a debate about the figures and percentages of gross national income (GNI). Furthermore, Martonyi feels it is unreasonable to base discussions on the next MFF, which concern the second half of this decade and possibly beyond (depending on the length: five, seven or ten years), in the current climate of austerity.
The crisis has exacerbated the differences between member states. "Never before have the positions of member states been so remote from one another," says Martonyi. The challenge for the Hungarian Presidency will therefore be to reconcile the different stances within the Council as early as possible. To test the waters, the Commission is expected to come out with a communication on the next MFF before June 2011. This would officially kick...