Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Barroso's case of the Budget Blues

After a tumultuous five-plus-months of discussions, EU negotiations over the 2011 budget broke down two days ago, leaving an array of despondent MEPs, Commissioners and eurocrats to lament a 'budgetary crisis'.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso launched a not so veiled attack on the terribly obstinate member states who tried to install a little 'pseudo-austerity' into the EU budget (real austerity would mean actually cutting expenditure rather than trying to cap the budget rise at 2.9%). Jose said:
I regret that a small number of member states were not prepared to negotiate in a European spirit Those that think they have won a victory over 'Brussels' have shot themselves in the foot. They should know that they have dealt a blow to people all over Europe and in the developing world.
Yes, you read right. Barroso is actually attempting to take the moral high ground here. First of all, if the EU institutions really wanted to help the developing world, why not spend some time taking a long hard look at the existing fat in the EU budget rather than jumping up and down demanding more money.

But, more hypocritical, is the presumption that an increased EU budget is necessarily going to help the developing world. What about the huge amounts spent supporting European farmers at the expense of their competitors in poorer countries and the additional impact this has on increasing food prices?

One can also point to flaws in EU trade agreements that leave poorer countries unable to support domestic producers against floods of cheap, subsidised European imports.

The EU's large aid budget is also less effective at targeting funds at the poorest countries than many of member states' own aid programmes.

All in all, Barrosso's tug at the heart strings looks a lot more like a self-serving attempt to boost the power of the EU institutions rather than a sudden bout of altruism.

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