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Main focus of Monday, February 11, 2013

EU budget summit ends in compromise

The draft budget caps EU spending at 960 billion euros. (© dapd)

After lengthy negotiations, the EU heads of state and government agreed on the financial framework for 2014-2020 on Friday. The EU Parliament has said it is ready to oppose the budget, which for the first time is smaller than the previous one. While some commentators are unhappy that solidarity and competitiveness were sacrificed to arrive at the compromise, others find it remarkable that an agreement was reached at all.

Wiener Zeitung - Austria

Muddling through instead of competitiveness

The budget compromise is retrograde and sends the wrong message entirely for Europe's competitiveness, the state-run liberal daily Wiener Zeitung believes: "Politics is the art of the doable - in normal times. On days like these, politics is the art of speaking clearly and being willing to be creative. The heads of government at the budget summit did none of this. Their politics is faint-hearted, aimless and simply a little less of what we already had. ... The opportunity to send a clear signal to industry and research has been missed. The opportunity to make a statement with the EU budget that Europe is fully aware of its role in the world has been missed. While in the US, President Obama took on a 'big deal' on the budget and countries like China, Japan and South Korea are getting ready to strengthen their industry, Europe will continue to support its agriculture. This is not to downplay the importance of agriculture, but it is not the decisive sector when it comes to global competitiveness." (11/02/2013)

Hotnews - Romania

Europe nothing but fight over money nowadays

The EU heads of state and government negotiated for approximately 26 hours to agree on a reduced budget. For the news website Hotnews, the fierce bickering does not show the EU in a positive light: "As a result of the European economic crisis, the media are giving far closer coverage to the negotiations on the EU budget. But as far as the average European on the street is concerned, this game is just about national pride. ... The leaders have shown what Europe is: a quarrel over money. The need for 'more Europe' and stronger political integration seem to have been completely swept from the table. Of course the heads of state and government aren't keen on the idea of giving Brussels more political competences. Because these politicians have made a hobby of night-time negotiations, and that would remove a large part of their power. And it would turn the EU from being a scapegoat - as the leaders like to use it nowadays - into a far more concrete entity." (11/02/2013)

De Tijd - Belgium

EU Parliament must reject budget

The EU Parliament must not approve the new budget because it will lead to less Europe, the business paper De Tijd warns: "Herman Van Rompuy has offered the European countries bread and games in exchange for less Europe. In so doing he has been successful as president of the European Council. ... But as the embodiment a European institution he has failed. Not only is the agreement a mortgage on the future of Europe, it also strengthens the baneful misunderstanding that Europe is nothing but a machine for distributing money, and that at the end of the day it's every country for itself. ... The European Union was founded as a project of solidarity, and its only future lies in the spirit of togetherness. This Union was written off by Europe's leaders last week. Now there is only one body that can re-establish the balance: the budget has yet to receive the blessing of the European Parliament. ... It's time for the MEPs to show their colours: for Europe's best interests or for bread and games at home." (11/02/2013)

Politiken - Denmark

At least the EU still functions

Given the profound crisis in Europe, the left-liberal newspaper Politiken sees the results of the summit as not too bad after all, pointing out that they are proof that the EU continues to function: "Certainly, the power of innovation could have been greater. Danish industry is right to say that with more money for research, innovation and infrastructure, the EU could have demonstrated a greater sense of responsibility. ... Nonetheless, in view of the deep economic and social crisis in the EU, this reform budget is a commendable advance. In the course of their history Europe and other regions of the world have seen crises of these dimensions profoundly undermine solidarity. This was not the case this time. The EU has demonstrated a robust political foundation and strong determination. And hopefully this will also manifest itself in a far greater strategic and green reform in the future." (09/02/2013)

Welt am Sonntag - Germany

Germany puts its faith in London-Berlin axis

At 960 billion euros, the financial framework negotited on Friday is considerably lower than the sum proposed by Council President Herman Van Rompuy in November. This means the prerequisite for the British staying in the EU has been fulfilled, the conservative daily Welt am Sonntag notes with approval, adding that the move was possible because Germany gave up its blind loyalty to France: "Ever since François Hollande won the election, Paris has cast itself as the organiser of the lame economies of Europe and positioned itself against Germany. Berlin has now made it clear that it will form other alliances if necessary and thus turned itself into the key pole of the EU power structure, exerting the greatest influence from all sides thanks to its openness. And indeed Germany's interests do dovetail more often with the UK's that with those of Paris. Therefore it is important for Berlin to position itself between the two big players. At any rate France, with its encrusted fiscal policy, is clearly not a good adviser on what Europe needs to attain a better future." (10/02/2013)

The Times - United Kingdom

British still pay too much

British Prime Minister David Cameron was able to push through his demand for cuts in the EU budget at the EU summit. But the conservative daily The Times is still not happy with the result, feeling it will continue to cost Britain taxpayers too much: "In terms of what they were demanding, the French President has suffered a defeat, his British counterpart has triumphed. Yet at the end of it, France has a bigger economy but is a considerably smaller net contributor to the budget. So while Mr Cameron will be pleased with his night's work and feel that he could not practically have done more, accepting this judgement should not involve being satisfied with the budget that has emerged. On the first and twentieth working day of every month, hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is deducted from the Exchequer account to pay the EU. It is still too much. And still not spent well. It is a cost that adds to the growing Euroscepticism in Britain, and rightly so." (10/02/2013)

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