As the year 2020 approaches EU leaders have already begun drafting new priorities for the bloc for the new decade. During an informal summit in Brussels (February 23) the heads of State debated on how to allocate funds for the so-called Multi-Annual Financial Framework, also known as the MFF. This a follow-up from the meetings in Bratislava (September 16, 2016), and in Rome (March 25, 2017). It should be noted that the policies under debate are going to be valid for at least seven years (from 2021 until 2027). This is the reason why stakes are so high.
The EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker stated that:
Budgets are not bookkeeping exercises – they are about priorities and ambition. They translate our future into figures. So let’s first discuss about the Europe we want. Then, Member States must back their ambition up with the money to match. And whilst we all need to understand that business as usual is not an option for this upcoming discussion, I firmly believe that we can square the circle and agree on a budget where everyone will be a net beneficiary.
The goal of the MFF is to ensure that the main priorities listed the EU are properly funded. So far the core objectives are:
- The protection of external borders;
- Enable a true Defence Union;
- Boost digitalization of multiple sectors;
- Improve coordination of agricultural policies.
The debates are based on a vast range of data and scenarios, once the allocation of just 1% of the EU GDP might affect dramatically the allocation of funds to other areas (see the document “A new, modern Multiannual Financial Framework for a European Union that delivers efficiently on its priorities post-2020”. The Commission is also trying to push this agenda in a transparent matter, especially under the constraints of a recent financial crisis. Also, the Brexit will demand an extra effort when it comes to funding allocation, once the British government won’t contribute as before.
With regards to the goals per se, the EU is looking to foster a united border control, increasing staff and harmonizing methods to secure region. This objective would cost approximately 25 billion euros.
It’s a fact that the EU is a soft power political entity. However, with a more isolationist position in Washington, the bloc is waking up to need to flex its muscles. The rising cost of research and development of military equipment is pushing member states to develop more coordination in the sector. So far France, Germany and the UK have been using different fighter jets. Recently Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have met to define the creation of fighter jet to be used by most European Air Forces.
Also, it should be taken into account that threats have changed. Countries should unite to defend their cyber systems, which have been attacked more often. R&D and defense funding should require 45 billion euros.
When it comes to digitalization, Europe has been lagging behind the US and even China. European companies should be willing to take the leap and adopt the latest technologies to boost competitiveness and save valuable amounts. From data rooms to digital formats, the sky is the limit to improve the work environment. The trend is already being felt in many countries. Last year Macron stated that France should become a start-up nation.
Policymakers have realized that the efforts to reduce asymmetries in the agricultural sector have been left aside little by little. Farmers are complaining, especially in the most affected countries like France.
The result of these talks should be refined by early May, once the Commission still has its ears open through public consultations that began last month.