Uncertainty as EU talks resume
He has funded these two reduced cuts by taking from the “Connecting Europe” transport and energy initiative, as well as from the allocation for external relations and from the “Horizon 2020” research scheme.
But a deal is not yet within his grasp. The biggest question of all centres of British prime minister David Cameron. The sense in summit-land is that Van Rompuy has done nothing to appease Cameron in the new draft.
For one thing, the overall size of the €1.036 trillion budget commitment remain the same as in the previous proposal. The €80 billion cut from the Commission’s proposal remains intact, but no more than that.
For another, Van Rompuy has not touched his existing proposal to scrape €500 million from the EU’s administration budget for 2014-2020. This is hot topic for Downing Street but EU Commission chief José Manuel Barroso is not wont to give ground.
German observers of the fray say Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso will have to go much further than that to bring Cameron on board. The saying goes in the corridors here that there’s “not even a glimpse of hope” for him in the latest plan.
But this is still a relatively early in the game. As the talks resume, Mr Van Rompuy’s midnight gambit looks like an attempt to square off tricky but soluble items first before delving into the really difficult stuff.
Mr Cameron may decide that it is better to cut and run, collapsing the deal but receiving a hero’s welcome from the Tory Eurosceptics. He may feel, however, that this would be bad for relations with his coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats.
A year after his veto on the Fiscal Treaty, the British leader may also be reluctant to antagonise his EU partners relations ahead of the next summit - in three week’s time - in which the they will seek to finalise the their “banking union” plan. Mr Cameron has a big interest in that particular debate.
This a complex picture with many moving parts. There are 28 countries to be satisfied – the 27 existing members of the union plus Croatia, which joins next year. Everyone has something to gain or lose. Right now, for example, the feeling in Italian circles is that Rome stands to rank among the biggest of all losers. Can Mario Monti accept that? Hardly.
Any deal must also win the support of the European Parliament. For the package to go ahead, it requires approval from an absolute majority of MEPs. Martin Schulz, president of the parliament, sounded a warning note when he met the leaders last night. “Advocating cuts in the EU budget may be popular, but it is hugely irresponsible,” he said.
“We, the representatives of the peoples of Europe, are categorically opposed to the freezing of the EU budget, let alone to cuts in that budget.”