TALLINN 's Solidarity was the buzzword during British Prime Minister Tony Blair's meeting with his Baltic counterparts in Tallinn on Dec. 1. After the conference, Estonia's head of government told journalists that the European Union's budget must be based on solidarity.
Blair stopped in Tallinn during a whirlwind tour of new EU member states before the United Kingdom ends its EU presidency this year. While in the Baltics, Blair focused on the 25-nation bloc's spending plans, but didn't mention concrete figures.
Yet Prime Minister Andrus Ansip wasn't appeased by Blair's suggestions.
"I am not 100 percent satisfied with the proposal we are yet to receive," he said.
The Baltics need to prioritize an EU financial perspective for 2007-2013, Ansip said, because if this process is delayed, it could lead to problems with the flow of support funds from Brussels. At the same time, he added, the Baltic states cannot compromise with just any budget proposal.
EU enlargement was a great success, Ansip continued, and the less wealthy member states are counting on the union's solidarity.
"We cannot say 'No' right at the outset because then there will clearly be no agreement on the budget in December, which is a matter of high importance to the Baltic states," he said.
Estonia, which is focused on quick development and becoming an EU contributor as soon as possible, needs support from richer member states, Ansip said.
Blair discussed the bloc's spending plans only in general terms. He said the British presidency would submit its proposals on the EU financial perspective for 2007-2013 to the European Commission next Monday.
The EU budget planning principles require radical reform, he told reporters. The budget must support the bloc's cooperation in economic, technological and scientific development, while continue to be forward looking.
Britain accepts that the bloc's poorer members still need EU funds in order to financially pull themselves closer to the old member states, Blair said.
He also criticized the present spending policy, which directs 40 percent of the EU budget into farm subsidies, mentioning that a deal on the EU budget for 2007-2013 also depends on World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong.
The talks, which are scheduled for later this month, will focus on the rich and poor countries' differences concerning agricultural subsidies. So far, the EU has not agreed to slash farm subsidies, its biggest spending article.
The WTO's failure to reach an agreement on the issue means a smaller EU budget, he added.
The British presidency is reportedly planning a 10-percent cut in support to new member states of the EU. In Estonia's case, this would mean a loss of 700 million kroons (44.7 mln euros) in annual EU funds.