PARIS – However predictable the difficult negotiations that accompany European politics may seem to be, in the end they seldom fail to surprise. A crucial European Union summit aimed at securing a deal on the EU budget for 2014-2020, the so-called multi-annual financial framework (MFF), will take place later this week, and the mood music surrounding it has been intense, to say the least.
Before even a word has been spoken, Europeans are being told that the negotiations in Brussels will be “bad-tempered,” with vetoes by individual member states looming large. Unfortunately, such talk could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Consider this: A group of major companies based in various EU countries – the likes of Tesco, Shell, Barilla, and Philips – are insisting that whatever its final size, the MFF deal should commit to a proposed minimum of 20% of spending in 2014-2020 on green and low-carbon growth. These are the same companies that Europe’s national governments court and listen to on a daily basis. But, when it comes to the MFF, Europe’s national leaders appear not to be listening closely. Nor do they say much about the obvious dividends that such spending could provide, from the United Kingdom in the west to the EU’s newest candidate country, Croatia, in the east.
Europe’s 500 million citizens may not be surprised by what is playing out in the corridors of power, but they ought to find it very disturbing. The issue is not only what could be lost in the race to the bottom in which many EU national governments are now engaging, but also the manipulative anti-EU sentiment coming from many quarters of the European press, which appears intent on pushing various national leaders into another budget showdown.