Member States in this group will discuss in Prague Castle the European Union's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027, stressing the centrality of cohesion policy as a key instrument for economic growth and convergence. between regions and countries of the Community bloc and, consequently, in rejecting the planned cuts to that policy in the next Community budget.
The annual meeting of the Friends of Cohesion group comes at a particularly relevant time, as the discussion on the next MFF is stalled: at the European summit in Brussels on 17-18 October, the European Council rejected the advanced proposal. Finnish Presidency of the EU, which foresaw a reduction in the overall contribution of States compared to that of the European Commission, which the Portuguese Prime Minister considered "unacceptable".
“As part of the discussion on the EU's multiannual financial framework, there was an exchange of views which had the advantage of being very frank, very open and very clear among all, and where the deep divergences that still exist on the matter were very evident. future multiannual financial framework ”, said António Costa at the time, conceding that“ there is clearly no way to make any kind of agreement in the short term ”.
The proposal drafted by the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union following the first round of bilateral meetings with the Permanent Representations pointed to a possible reduction of between 60 and 70 billion of the overall amount of EUR 1,279 billion (current prices) envisaged by the European Commission.
This reduction resulted from a revision of national contributions to the Community budget to 1.06% of Gross National Income, considerably lower than the 1.11% proposed by the Community executive in May 2018 and 1.3% advocated by the European Parliament. .
In practice, such a downward revision would necessarily necessitate further cuts in cohesion policy beyond the 10% originally envisaged by the European Commission – in his proposal, the executive advocates a budget commitment of € 373 billion (at current prices). for this policy, which is close to a 10% global cut compared to the current multiannual financial framework.
The future European Commissioner for Cohesion, Portugal's Elisa Ferreira, has already spoken out against these planned cuts to the area she will guard, inevitable according to the current executive due to the departure of the United Kingdom, one of the main net contributors to the EU budget.
“I think the proposal put forward by the Commission is a working basis, it is nothing more than […] it is not for the Commission to have to introduce very ambitious initial values and then to reduce them by delaying work, ”he said during his hearing in the European Parliament, promising to strive for the“ highest possible value ”for that policy in the next MFF. .
A compromise proposal will therefore have to be found by the Council, and this is not expected to happen by the end of the year. It will be up to Croatia, who will take over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2020, to take over the task of designing a budget not only acceptable to the Friends of Cohesion group, but consensual among the 27.