Monday, December 19, 2005

Sweden In Charge?

A key part of the EU budget compromise on the financial framework 2007 - 2013 was the agreement to do a review of the entire budget in 2008/09:

"Europeans are living through an era of accelerating change and upheaval. The increasing pace of globalisation and rapid technological change continues to offer new opportunities and present new challenges. Against this background, the European Council agrees that the EU should carry out a comprehensive reassessment of the financial framework, covering both revenue and expenditure, to sustain modernisation and to enhance it, on an ongoing basis."

"The European Council therefore invites the Commission to undertake a full, wide ranging review covering all aspects of EU spending, including the CAP, and of resources, including the UK rebate, to report in 2008/09. On the basis of such a review, the European Council can take decisions on all subjects covered by the review. he review will also be taken into account in the preparatory work on the following Financial Perspective."

There is thus the possibility to do also major changes taking into account enlargement needs, impact of world trade talks or any other factor considered relevant.

The fact that farm spending is likely to take a bigger share of the EU budget in the years ahead than in the past few years is among the factors that should give pause for thought. This was of course the result of lower overall levels of spending while preserving farm support spending.

The agreement says hardly anything about how the review should be done.

But it does mention 2008/09. One possible - I would say even likely - scenario is that the Commission presents its proposal under the review during the later part of 2008, that this is widely debated during the run-up to the European Parliament election in June 2009, and that a decision is taken by the European Council in December 2009.

That's when Sweden has responsibility for the EU Presidency.

The last - and first - time Sweden had the presidency was a period when no particularly challenging decisons had to be made.

This time could be very different indeed. It might in fact be among the most challenging presidencies overall during the rest of this decade.

Whichever government comes out of the elections in September 2006 - it has better start to get itself prepared!