EU leaders failed to agree on the next long term budget after a two-day meeting, November 22 to 23. Leaders went into the meeting bitterly divided on whether the 2014 to 2020 budget should be cut or raised, with 11 leaders threatening to veto the talks.
Much of the European press focused on Britain’s isolation in the talks. Britain’s Parliament gave Prime Minister David Cameron an almost impossible target of cutting the budget, while most other leaders wanted it raised. European Parliament leaders singled Britain out for condemnation ahead of the talks, portraying them as greedy and selfish, unwilling to stand with the rest of Europe in a time of trouble.
In reality, Britain’s position was merely the most extreme of many nations demanding cuts. Even without Britain’s dissension, a deal would not have been agreed upon this week. Leaders now plan to regroup for another summit later and hope to agree to a compromise early next year.
The botched budget talks demonstrate that the EU is too large and unwieldy to achieve much more unity. When times were good, it was only after much contention that EU leaders agreed a long term budget. Now, with money tight, it is a serious possibility they will fail to reach any agreement at all. In that case, the budget must be decided on a year-by-year basis, with spending on different items approved by qualified majority voting. It would be a slow, messy and inefficient way for Europe to move forward.
The slow consensus decision making between 27 nations cannot go on for much longer. Europe’s problems are too big to be solved this way.
The only solution is to have a smaller group of nations willing to surrender much of their power to central organization.
It is obvious that Britain will not be in this core group. But other EU nations will either move or be pushed to the outside too. Watch for the EU to coalesce into a tightly controlled group of 10. ▪