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29 Jan 2016

Dutch Presidency Conference discusses next Multiannual Financial Framework

The Dutch EU Council Presidency invited around 200 high-level participants to a brainstorming meeting in Amsterdam on 28 January 2016, to discuss the EU's next multiannual budget. The event aimed at kick-starting a discussion on reforming the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF, as of 2021), and to start addressing the difficult topics.

Dutch Minister of Finance Jeroean Dijsselbloem summarised the outcome of the conference in his speech at the end of the day.

Regarding the importance of the MFF, Mr. Dijsselbloem emphasised that the European budget benefits all EU Member States in different ways, providing funds for structural investments and supporting economic growth, employment and social cohesion, as well as for innovation and education. He specifically highlighted Horizon2020 and the Erasmus programme as "two excellent examples of European added value".

Mr Dijsselbloem conceded that the financial, economic and debt crises have hit Europe hard over the past years, which in turn has increased the financial pressure on national governments and the way they spend their budget. The same applies to the EU, thus EC Vice-President Georgieva called for pushing for better results from the EU budget in her contribution to the conference. The EU has already made some important choices in this context, such as introducing the EFSI (European Fund for Strategic Investment).

Mr. Dijsselbloem then related the main results of the conference, which he referred to as "points of guidance for the future MFF". It will be important to find a balance between flexibility to repond to unforeseen events and long term investments, without losing the certainty of long-term investments for Europe. This could mean e.g. reserving a larger part of the budget for unforeseen circumstances, next to funds and new financial instruments for long-term investments and/or Cohesion policy, or cooperating as closely as possible with private institutions to combine funding sources.

Mr. Dijsselbloem also referred to a trade-off in balancing the various goals of the EU-budget, from solidarity to subsidiarity, saying that "we cannot discuss the expenditure side of the budget without discussing its financing. This financing needs to be fair and transparent. The current financing of the EU-budget is, however, too complicated, and not transparent enough." This issue is being discussed by the High Level Group Own Resources, chaired by Mr. Mario Monti, who was also present at the conference.

With regard to next steps, Mr. Dijsselbloem announced that the NL Presidency will host an open discussion on the MFF and the EU Budget during the informal General Affairs Council, and at the informal ECOFIN Council, both in April 2016. The Dutch Presidency will also work towards improving the transparency, simplicity and predictability of the budgetary process, e.g. by agreeing a more straightforward budget calendar, with a limited and fixed number of amending budgets.

Appealing to the representatives from the Member States, Mr Dijsselbloem urged them to address their national parliaments, constituencies and stakeholders to discuss the principles suggested and debated at the conference, and to communicate the crucial importance of negotiating a completely new MFF together, "with an open, future-oriented attitude".

For more information:

NL Council Presidency - Mr. Dijsselbloem's speech

Photo: NL Finance Minister Dijsselbloem (by NL Presidency)

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