Whos glad, sad and mad about EU budget plan

The European Commissions plan for the next long-term EU budget has ministers, lobbyists, farmers, scientists, mayors and many others scanning spreadsheets and poring over PDFs to find out how they will be affected.

It will be weeks before the Commission provides more details of the €1.279 trillion plan — which will then be the subject of months, if not years, of wrangling between governments, lawmakers and lobby groups. Heres a selection of those who look like early winners and losers from Budget Commissioner Günther Oettingers blueprint for the years 2021 to 2027.

? Glad: Baltic farmers

Farmers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — some of the Continents most downtrodden — emerged as surprise winners. While many farmers will be licking their wounds after the announcement of a roughly 4 percent cut to direct subsidies, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said Baltic farmers will receive a 13.6 percent bump.

Brussels currently gives farmers from some countries, mainly ex-communist states in Eastern Europe, considerably less per hectare than their counterparts in countries such as France and Italy, due to a formula meant to account for lower land and labor prices. In the face of longstanding complaints about the policy, Brussels plans to restrict farm money for countries that have done well so far and redistribute some savings to those who have fared worst.

? Mad: Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden

These “frugal four” net contributors to the EU budget face being whacked twice. Theyre being asked to increase their national contributions and lose the rebates they receive. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the Commissions proposal “far from an acceptable solution.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte used similar language. Swedens Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson brandished perhaps the ultimate Scandinavian insult: “unreasonable.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen tweeted, “A smaller EU should mean a smaller budget!”

? Glad: Tank drivers

Military commanders have been arguing that it would take too long to move tanks and other hardware across the Continent if they had to respond to a big emergency. Brussels has saluted smartly and plans to allocate €6.5 billion from its Connecting Europe fund to upgrade infrastructure to make sure it is fit for heavy military vehicles.

?? Sad & mad: British boffins

Whats worse than knowing youre being shut out of a major source of income for cutting-edge research? Finding out that pot of money is going to be much bigger in future. Thats the scenario facing British scientists. The next EU research program, Horizon Europe, is growing by nearly 30 percent while their national spending pot stagnates. U.K. researchers will be out of the EU program as full members after 2020; if the U.K. chooses to join as an associate member, it must pay its way and its involvement could well be restricted to only parts of Horizon Europe. That will be quite a change: British researchers are on track to win over €11 billion by the end of the current program, Horizon 2020. Brussels is struggling to hide its Schadenfreude. “Its not only that the cake is bigger than before, but that the guy that was eating more of that cake is not anymore around the table,” a Commission official said.

? Glad: Big pharma and engineering firms

Big corporate names such as Merck, Pfizer, Airbus and Thalys are among the businesses that take part in the EU research program, and just some of those that will benefit hugely from the Commissions plans. Brussels is proposing to give industry a more prominent role in Horizon Europe than in Horizon 2020. The Commission says its plans to hand out billions of euros to “clusters” where industry works with academics on issues like health and mobility will help tackle the big challenges facing Europe. NGOs say itll limit progress in favor of private sector interests.

? Sad: Mayors and regional leaders

Proposed cuts to cohesion funds — the cash the EU uses to help poorer regions catch up with richer ones — have mayors and governors up in arms. Such funding currently accounts for around a third of the EU budget. “By cutting cohesion policy by 7 percent, the Commission is seriously letting down Europes towns and regions,” said Stefano Bonaccini, president of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. “Even on the basis of 2018 prices, this will represent a loss of €41 billion for local and regional governments.” The Commission is expected to unveil more details of its plans for cohesion funding on May 29.

This article is part of POLITICOs new coverage of the EU budget, tracking the development of the seven-year Multiannual Financial Framework, and the first EU budget that will face a low or no contribution from the United Kingdom. This coverage includes the Budget Briefing newsletter every Monday afternoon. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.

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