After almost 28 hours of negotiations, European Council President Charles Michel called an end to his first major summit as Brussels’ most senior official. Despite efforts to reconcile the EU27, it was not possible to bridge the divides in thinking between the prominent prime ministerial pacts. Dutch leader Mark Rutte led a counter-offensive against increases made to the bloc’s 2021-2027 spending plans, while French President Emmanuel Macron told colleagues not to use the €75 billion blackhole left in their finances after Brexit to cut spending and lower the EU’s ambitious expectations. Here are five takeaways on what happens next in the EU’s battle to conclude a budget deal.
Another emergency summit
EU insiders have predicted another emergency summit is on the horizon for the coming weeks.
Most expect Mr Michel to call another two-day gathering on March 5-6, just 20 days before the bloc’s March European Council summit.
The EU Council chief does not want the budget row to cloud other decision-making processes while leaders attempt to settle their differences over finances.
EU sources claim even a second extraordinary summit is unlikely to break the current impasse, with some saying it could take until November to finally resolve.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned leaders on Friday if they fail to conclude a deal by the end of the year many will be left without key funding as programmes come to an end.
EU army dealt a blow
The European Commission were tasked with drawing up a new plan last Friday afternoon that made savage cuts to the bloc’s €1.1 trillion spending plans.
The move came after pressure from the so-called “Frugal Four” – Austria, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands – who refused to sign up to Mr Michel’s plan to increase spending to 1.074% of EU Gross National Income.
Brussels’ plans to boost its military and security ambitions became one of the first casualties as eurocrats cut funds in a number of areas.
The new paper cut spending on space projects by €1 billion, €3.5 billion for military and peacekeeping activities and €1.5 billion to crises management plans to improve the movement of armed forces across the Continent.
Germany’s Angela Merkel infuriated
The German Chancellor was infuriated after being forced to reject Mr Michel’s spending plans, according to EU sources.
Under the original plans, Berlin would have paid for around 25 percent of the EU’s entire budget, whereas France would have been better off.
One source told Express.co.uk: “She has been put in an unacceptable position by Charles Michel.
“Germans hate the idea that there’s an image they don’t want to pay for the European Union – Michel is making Merkel pay for Macron.”
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Brexit just won’t go away
Despite Britain leaving the bloc last month, EU leaders still allowed Brexit to influence much of their opening negotiations over the first budget without the UK.
Brussels will lose between €10 and €12 billion every year as a result of Brexit, according to official EU calculations.
Mr Macron urged his colleagues not to use Britain’s departure as an excuse to cut the bloc’s budget.
“It is unacceptable to think that because the UK is no longer part of the EU, we will need to give up on our ambitions,” the French leader said as he arrived at the first summit since the UK quit the EU on January 31.
And after calling an end to talks on Friday night, Mr Michel said: “We know this European budget is a very difficult topic, it’s a very difficult negotiations. Especially after Brexit and the gap between €60-75billion.
“We have worked very hard to reconcile the differences of interests and opinions around the table but we need more time.”
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Charles Michel refused to brand summit a ‘failure’
The EU Council chief refused to admit his first major summit ended in a failure, despite the lack of a deal being reached after the marathon talks.
Instead, he claimed: “We needed to get to a political debate at the highest level.”
But EU diplomats were angry at his lack of preparation ahead of the high-profile, Brussels gathering.
They argued he failed to tweak his plans to answer the demands of member states, but conceded that was impossible because of the differing positions by member states.
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