Geoghegan-Quinn criticises British claims about EU budget
Ireland’s EU commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has criticised Britain on the eve of negotiations on the union’s budget for branding the funding “a budget for Brussels”.
Most of the €1.03 trillion sought by the commission was money to be spent in EU countries, she said.
“What is kind of upsetting in a way is that people, and the British in particular, keep talking about this as a budget for Brussels . . . the money that we are proposing in the budget all goes back to the member states.”
The money was being spent on farmers, infrastructure projects, companies and universities and claims about overspending on the EU’s bureaucracy were also untrue.
“The amount of civil servants that we have in the commission is less than what they have to run Copenhagen as a city, that’s the actual figure, so it’s a tiny public service,” she said in an interview with The Irish Times.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said it would be a “terrible tragedy and a terrible pity” if the EU were to move ahead without the UK on the budget. The UK had received more funding in her policy area of research, innovation and science than it put in, she added.
A significant increase of €30 billion to a total budget of €80 billion is being sought by Ms Geoghegan-Quinn for her department but she hoped this could be won since the area was seen as key to developing jobs in Europe.
The countries lobbying for a cut in the budget – such as the UK and the Nordic states – were also in favour of greater emphasis on research and innovation, she said.
“When we put forward the initial proposal for the budget, which was €80 billion, the reason for that was because it was important for Europe to show in its own budget that it is doing what it is preaching to the individual member states.”
She insisted that as Irish commissioner there was no conflict between the amount of funding she was seeking for her policy area and the funding being sought for agriculture – a huge issue for Ireland which wanted a €1.7 billion share.
If her budget was cut to accommodate agriculture, she would “have to live with that”, but she warned that the European Parliament would give member states a “very rough ride” if her funding suffered deep cuts.
“Ours is such a tiny percentage of the overall budget compared to, say, what goes to cohesion or what goes to agriculture, that we would hope that there would be a distinction made to support growth.”