The European Council summit broke up without agreement on the EU’s 2014-2020 budget but leaders are hoping to complete a deal early next year.
David Cameron was under pressure from Labour Conservative backbenchers after the Commons voted for a real terms cut. Five DUP MPs voted with the Tory rebels while Alliance’s Naomi Long voted for the Government’s negotiating position: a freeze.
Nigel Dodds remarked that the EU “cannot be spared the economic and fiscal cutbacks” which are being “inflicted” by national governments.” Dodds highlighted several areas for cuts, including the European External Action Service (the EU’s diplomatic arm) and a proposed European history museum.
Jim Nicholson, meanwhile, claimed that the UK Government was putting Peace IV funding at risk. Nicholson wants any new programme to have a ring-fenced budget. Peace funding has mainly supported voluntary and community groups and has therefore been criticised for offering poor value for money.
Martina Anderson opposed cuts in the EU budget but demanded an end to “outrageous salaries paid to higher level bureaucrats”. Funds could be redirected to infrastructure and job creation but she warned that reducing the EU budget would result in cuts to the single farm payment.
All three MEPs favour a single seat for the European Parliament, to save money. SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell also highlighted the risks to farmers and added: “Other European leaders increasingly see [Cameron] as a prisoner of the Tory extreme right which wants to pull out of the EU, so they do not regard his negotiating positions as genuine.”
Irish presidency priorities
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has outlined Ireland’s priorities for its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The presidency (January-June 2013) comes forty years after the UK and Ireland joined the EU.
The Council of the European Union brings together government ministers from all 27 member states. Access to Irish ministers will give Northern Ireland additional influence e.g. in finalising the new Common Agricultural Policy.
Kenny pledged a “fair, impartial and pragmatic” presidency “which listens as much as it speaks.” He hoped to make progress on a euro zone banking union and the Horizon 2020 programme for R&D. Ireland would give the single market a strong focus on the digital economy.
Child poverty call
Martina Anderson has called on the European Commission to bring forward its plans for monitoring and assessing child poverty across the Europe. The MEP was speaking at a Sinn Féin conference in West Belfast on the problem and she recalled her own experiences while growing up in Derry.
Anderson stated: “We have to send out a message that we cherish all of our young people and that we are determined to apply ourselves so that they get the best start in life and that there will be no discrimination against them.” The conference was also addressed by Junior Minister Jennifer McCann and Cypriot socialist MP Skevi Koukouma.