It seems that the big three are making the real decisions in private while the the minnows make up the numbers:
Britain, France and Germany were on Thursday engaged in clandestine efforts to secure a real-terms freeze in the European Union budget until 2020, in a move that will infuriate Poland and other poorer EU states.David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, was privately lobbying leaders of other EU paymaster countries at a summit in Brussels last night, hoping that up to 10 countries would sign a letter calling for the freeze. Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, and Angela Merkel, German chancellor, have backed the letter but wanted to keep its existence under wraps to avoid a diplomatic row at a time when the eurozone crisis was already stretching EU unity.
As news of the initiative began to seep out last night, there was anger from those who gain most from the EU’s €141.5bn budget and those who see Brussels spending as a driver of European integration.“We are fully mobilised,” said a Polish official. “It’s not something that has any value of surprise.” Meanwhile José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, was said by diplomats to be furious at the initiative; he is supposed to be leading discussion on the drafting of the next EU budget, running from 2014-20.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/74586720-0...#axzz18KcqpcP4One senior diplomat claimed Mr Barroso had been sidelined in a classic manoeuvre by Europe’s biggest budget contributors, reminiscent of a stitch-up by the same countries in 2003 ahead of the 2007-13 budget round.The diplomat claimed Britain and Germany had made tacit agreements that France’s beloved Common Agricultural Policy would remain largely intact, while Britain’s equally cherished budget rebate would survive unscathed.
With EU spending frozen in real terms – and declining over the budget period as a share of Europe’s total wealth – the big losers would be those countries reliant on structural funds to bolster their economies.
British officials deny any grand bargain over the rebate and CAP. Nevertheless, a call for budget discipline would be a significant – and much needed – negotiating triumph for Mr Cameron, who has faced anger from his own Conservative MPs for failing to take a tougher line in Europe.
Mr Cameron is already under fire for agreeing to a new EU treaty revision – setting up a permanent eurozone bail-out mechanism – without securing any significant concessions from Brussels in return.
Mr Cameron’s campaign has put him on a collision course with Poland, which is the biggest net beneficiary of EU funds, and would be hardest hit by any move to limit the budget. Last year, the country took in €6.5bn more in EU funds than it paid out.
The Poles have been rounding up support from fellow central and eastern European countries, who are also beneficiaries of the EU budget. They also met Mr Barroso on Thursday morning to discuss their concerns.