Lithuanian president doubts EU countries will agree on budget next week

  • 2020-02-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda doubts that it will be possible to find solutions on the European Union's new multiannual budget during the upcoming summit next week.

"I believe that at this stage one should be a big optimist to expect that we will find all answers to questions during the upcoming meeting," Nauseda told journalists in Brussels after his bilateral meeting with President of the European Council Charles Michel.

"I understand that it will not be easier to do that later as the turn comes for other points of agenda that might electrify the political environment here in Brussels, and I understand the wish to finish the consideration of the multiannual financial perspective as soon as possible," Nauseda said.

"But we are simply too far yet from what we want to achieve and what now is possible to achieve. And that process when we will have to adjust a bit our expectations and possibilities should take longer," he said.

The Lithuanian president called his conversation with Michel constructive.

Lithuania wants to secure as a small cut to cohesion funding, aimed at reducing economic disadvantages of poorer regions, as possible. But under the European Commission's latest proposals, cohesion funding for Lithuania would be cut by around a quarter in the new budget.

The key criterion for cutting funding is a higher GDP rate per capita. Nauseda say he paid attention to the fact that the Lithuanian rate was affected by a drop in population due to emigration.

"The responses were very friendly and our conversation was constructive. We paid attention to those arguments that we find important and especially applicable to Lithuania, and partly to Latvia. That is, first of all, emigration and a drop in the number of residents, which not only considerably distorts these rates and also slows considerably our convergence process, but there are also more questions," the Lithuanian president said.

European leaders will gather to discuss the Community's financial perspective for 2021-2027 on Feb 20, and Michel is holding meetings with leaders ahead of the summit.

Lithuania also wants direct payments to farmers to reach the EU average as soon as possible, as well as to secure greater support for the funding of the Ignalina nuclear power plant's decommissioning and the Kaliningrad transit scheme.

The ongoing talks on the size of the budget and its distribution will be more difficult because it will no longer include the UK's contribution.

"Our goal was to explain why the initial proposals which are now presented do not satisfy us, especially regarding cohesion funds and direct agricultural payments," Nauseda said. "With no doubt, the smaller the pie we plan to divide among countries is, the less space for negotiations we have and the fewer possibilities we have to do something as pulling a too-small blanket will still leave somebody's legs exposed."

"Here we also see a certain discrepancy among those needs we have and those resources that are proposed in this initial proposal," he said.

The existing budget expires at the end of this year.