“Difficult and nearly impossible” to reach agreement on EU budget - Berzins

  • 2012-11-22

RIGA - "It will be very difficult and nearly impossible to reach agreement on the European Union's multi-annual budget in the upcoming meeting of EU leaders," President Andris Berzins told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) on Nov. 21.

Berzins allowed the possibility that the recent proposal made by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on the bloc's budget is "fairly harmonized" with net contributors.

If the EU reaches agreement on its budget, Latvia will stand a better chance of pursuing its interests regarding direct payments to farmers and the maximum amount of Cohesion funds, predicted the president.

"We will improve our positions," said Berzins, but added that this does not necessarily mean receiving larger funds.

As reported, the decisive talks on the EU's multi-annual budget will begin tomorrow when the European Council will convene for a two-day session in Brussels.

Latvia's priority areas in the EU budget talks is to retain cohesion financing at least at the current level, as well as achieve fairer direct payments for Baltic farmers.

A number of EU members believe that the EU multi-annual budget should be slashed, similar to reductions in national budgets currently taking place in countries hit by the financial crisis. However, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Estonia, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Hungary and Croatia are in agreement that the EU budget, especially Cohesion financing, is an important instrument for the whole of the EU to return to growth and regain competitiveness.

Latvia's goal is to retain the current Cohesion financing level, which would be 4.7 billion euros from 2014 to 2020.

Latviaalso wants Brussels to introduce fair direct payments to farmers, stipulating that the lowest payments must constitute at least 80 percent of the average amount of the EU direct payments already in 2014. At the moment, Latvian farmers receive the smallest direct payments in the EU, 63 lats (90 euros) per hectare or less, while the average figure in Europe is 266 euros per hectare.