Uncertainty as EU talks resume
Analysis: It’s difficult to say with precision where the negotiation will go but the sense as EU leaders return to the summit chamber to attempt to agree a new seven-year financial plan is that the real talking is imminent.
European Council president Herman Van Rompuy tabled a compromise proposal around midnight and, without substantive discussion, sent the leaders away for a night’s sleep. They’re back the building again now, primed for action but facing what could be long journey into the night.
No-one really knows whether there will be a deal. In spite of gloomy remarks early this morning from German chancellor Angela Merkel, European officials say it’s only now that the true engagement gets under way.
It is widely acknowledged in the Justus Lipsius complex that the latest Van Rompuy draft goes nowhere close to meeting the demands of British prime minister David Cameron. By the same token, the argument goes that there is much scope for compromise for later in the talks.
“There’s still plenty left in the tank and there’s a large centre of gravity behind last night’s proposal,” said one summit insider.
To the suggestion that many countries are displeased with the latest proposal, this person argues that that is not so bad “so long as everyone is equally unhappy”.
Others however are more downbeat. "I think they'll call it a day today. I think they are too far apart,"said another summit participant.
It’s that kind of a scene. What the new draft does is to set the ball rolling again after prolonged bilateral engagements.
By putting €7.7 billion back into the agriculture budget and €11 billion, Van Rompuy is trying to appease two discrete coalitions.
The first of these includes the agriculture-loving France and its allies such as Ireland and Italy. The second corrals the less wealthy countries of southern and eastern Europe who rely heavily cohesion to modernise their economies.
While the feeling right now is that there may – just – be enough here to bring French president François Hollande on board, Mr Van Rompuy may have to go further still to reel in the deal.
The latest proposal is not altogether bad for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but it still points to a cut in Ireland’s allocation from the Common Agricultural Policy.
The original plan from the European Commission would erode the CAP by 9 per cent and Mr Van Rompuy’s initial demand was for a further 6 per cent, or €25 billion. As it stands, the cut over the Commission proposal would still be in excess of €17 billion.
While the exact impact for Ireland remains unclear, the basic principle in this arena is remains the same: the bigger the overall cut the bigger the threat to Dublin’s allocation.
In this light, there’s still purchase to be had for Mr Kenny and Mr Hollande.
Similarly, summit sources say it’s not altogether a given that the countries in the “Friends of Cohesion” group will flock to the new plan. “There’s a lot of them and there’s a range of views,” the summit insider says. Although Van Rompuy has obliterated almost half his proposed cut, he may have to yield yet more.