Major contributors to the European Union’s budget have blocked progress at an emergency summit, insisting they would not stump up more funds for the bloc’s next long-term spending package.
It is worth around one trillion euros (£836 billion).
The “Frugal Four” of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden believe the EU’s 2021-2027 budget, which is meant to fund ambitious climate change and digital economy policies, should amount to 1% of the 27-nation trading bloc’s gross national income (GNI).
EU Council president Charles Michel, who met with EU leaders throughout the night trying to broker a compromise, has tabled a draft budget of 1.074% of GNI.
The European Parliament wants an ambitious 1.3%, while the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, prefers 1.11%.
The #FrugalFour (<><><><><><><><ð) href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EUCO?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EUCO. Together, we are advocating for a new MFF based on a 1% contribution with reductions remaining in place. In addition, we want the budget to be modernized, with more focus on e.g. rule of law, migration, innovation and climate. pic.twitter.com/ablzVeTODJ<><><><><><><ð)>— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) February 20, 2020
“I can understand that when you’re a prime minister in a country that has poor regions, infrastructures, I can understand that … but when it comes to the percentage, I stand firm,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters in Brussels.
Asked whether the standoff can be resolved, Ms Frederiksen said: “No, I don’t think so. I’m willing to stay, and I’m prepared to stay the whole weekend. But no, I don’t think we’re going to reach an agreement.”
She said that another summit would be required, probably in early March.
As he left European Union headquarters in the early hours of Friday morning, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters: “I’m going to bed.”
Mr Rutte departed with a biography of Chopin tucked under his arm – a prop to suggest that he would probably be reading rather than talking about softening his position.
Broadly speaking, the Frugal Four with the backing of Germany are lined up against the “Friends of Cohesion”, a group of mainly central and eastern European nations who want to see the continued flow of “cohesion funds” – money earmarked to help develop poorer regions.
After a night of bilateral talks with Mr Michel and in small groups, the leaders were set to all meet together again mid-morning on Friday.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) February 20, 2020
I am grateful to the EU leaders for the hard work we've done together. There are many legitimate concerns, but I am convinced that it is possible to make progress.