Begg, Iain. (1999) “Reshaping the EU Budget: Yet Another Missed Opportunity?”. In: UNSPECIFIED, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Unpublished)
In the early morning of 26 March 1999, the EU’s heads of state and of government emerged from a marathon meeting to unveil the Financial Perspective for the period 2000-2006. Six weeks later, the deal was formally approved by the European Parliament by a 2-1 majority. The outcome should, therefore, be that the EU’s finances are secure for the next seven years. That a deal was reached may, at first sight, seem surprising, as the auguries were not good as Germany took over the Presidency at the beginning of the year. Perhaps paradoxically, the débacle of the resignation of the Commission and the ensuing soul-searching about the future of the Union may have helped, as Europe’s leaders felt obliged to try to rebuild confidence. The start that week of the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia was probably also significant, as a continuing squabble over relatively tiny sums of money would have looked petty. Yet although the importance of securing a deal should not be under-estimated-failure would have risked plunging the EU into financial crisis within a few months-the agreement ducks most of the major questions about the role and character of the EU budget. Moreover, many specific elements in the package are backward steps that are more likely to lead to more intractable problems in future. Even though there is provision within the Budget for a steady growth of expenditure on the Central and Eastern European countries, both before and after accession, there must also be suspicions that the new Financial Perspective will delay rather than facilitate enlargement. This paper appraises the 2000-2006 Financial Perspective as now agreed and examines its shortcomings in relation to the development of the EU. The next section considers the question of why there is an EU budget and points to the confusion in aims ascribed to it. The background to the new agreement is then described and appraised. In the concluding sections, I focus on what might have been and possible ways forward.
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