Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Talks due on seven-year EU budget

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to meet European leaders this week amid crunch talks over the EU budget

The presidents of the European Commission and Parliament will meet the Irish Taoiseach in Dublin on Thursday as efforts to agree a seven-year budget intensify.

Irish premier Enda Kenny will host Jose Manuel Barroso and Martin Schulz for intensified discussions of the deal reached by state leaders earlier this month.

Officials hope to reach an accord with the European Parliament on the crucial piece of legislation before the end of June when Ireland's term as holder of the EU presidency ends.

This month European leaders finally agreed a budget deal for the rest of the decade after a marathon 25-and-a-half hour negotiation session in Brussels which is expected to lead to the first cut in EU spending in its 56-year history.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy clinched the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) for a near one trillion euro budget after proposing a 34.4 billion euro cut over the next seven years.

The overall budget has to be approved by the European parliament. President Mr Schulz made clear he was uneasy with the plans when he raised concerns about a structural (long-term) deficit in the EU budget. The framework will have to be passed by the European Parliament.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had demanded a cut or at least a freeze in real terms in the budget, has claimed victory following an all-night session with fellow leaders in Brussels on February 8.

A spokesman for the Irish presidency said preparatory work was under way for Thursday's meeting. "The Irish presidency has this week intensified discussions on the future framework during our six month presidency."

The Tanaiste (deputy Irish prime minister) Eamon Gilmore will tomorrow meet with the chair of the Parliament's Budget Committee, Alain Lamassoure, in Dublin. The Tanaiste will lead discussions among member states on the MFF as chair of the General Affairs Council.

Ireland's Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has this week initiated MFF consultations with Klaus-Heiner Lehne MEP, who represents all European Parliament chairpersons. The spokesman added: "There will be further high-level contacts between the Presidency and Parliament in the coming weeks."