Monday 18 January 2021

You must be flexible, EU commissioner tells Dutch ahead of budget debate


The Netherlands would be sensible to adopt a more flexible approach in the ongoing discussions about a new EU multi-year budget, budget commissioner Johannes Hahn has told Dutch media.

If they don’t make concessions, other EU countries will also dig in their heels, so will there will be less spending room for the Dutch priorities, Hahn said in an interview with the Financieele Dagblad and BNR radio.

Hahn was in the Netherlands for talks with MPs, prime minister Mark Rutte and finance minister Wopke Hoekstra. ‘We are at the beginning of a very intensive phase in the negotiations,’ he said. ‘We must allow our positions to converge, not to drive each other apart.’

The Netherlands wants to limit the budget to 1% of the gross domestic product of the 27 remaining EU countries. The commission has a target of 1.114% and the European parliament 1.3%.

The Hague is also keen to keep the discount which it currently gets and to modernise the budget system in general. This, the FD said, would involve diverting money from regional support initiatives and agriculture into research and development.

Last October there was a bitter exchange between the Netherlands and Brussels about the size of the Dutch contribution in the coming years.

Articles in the Financieele Dagblad and Financial Times said Dutch and German contributions are rising sharply following changes to the EU budget rules and Brexit. The FD said the Dutch contribution will rise 62.5% to €13bn by 2027, a figure described by finance minister Hoekstra as ‘unacceptable’.

At the same time, Christine Lagarde, who at the time was poised to take over as president of the European central bank told a French radio station that countries like the Netherlands and Germany with large budget surpluses should be spending more.

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