Looking back on last week’s EU budget talks

The special European Council summit, which took place throughout Thursday and Friday of last week (February 20-21), ended on Friday evening with no clear movement on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027.

The two days were mainly taken up with bilateral meetings between the various heads of government of the 27 member states and European Council President Charles Michel, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also taking part.

The purpose of the meetings was to discuss the tabled proposal from Michel on the EU’s budget over the next seven years – a proposal that, if it was agreed, would see a 14% cut in the funding for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

After the two days of meetings and discussions, it became apparent that there was no scope for agreement at this time, with the wide-ranging changes to the MFF – including the CAP funding – being a sticking point for many member states, including Ireland.

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting broke up on Friday evening, Michel said: “Unfortunately, today we have observed that it was not possible to reach an agreement. We have observed that we need more time.

“We have worked very hard to try to reconcile the different concerns, the different interests, the different opinions on the table. But we need more time. It means that we will see in the future how it is possible to work on this topic in order to succeed, in order to get an agreement in the council,” he added.

The council president highlighted that “everything is on the table” for these negotiations, including “the figures [and] the numbers”.

It’s a political question… I fully understand that each country has specific concerns, they have specific opinions, specific interests.

Michel said that “informal consultations” will take place over the coming days and weeks to determine “best ways of working and what is realistic”.

The next scheduled European Council summit is due for March 26-27. However, at the moment, according to that meeting’s provisional agenda, neither the EU’s budget, not CAP, is due to be discussed.

It’s possible that another special European Council meeting will be scheduled before those dates to further discuss the MFF.