Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said on Wednesday negotiations on the European Union's new budget framework are going to be very difficult and that an agreement will probably not be reached this weekend.
"The initial hope was that this budget plan could be agreed as early as last year, but it was not possible. I am not optimistic that it will be dealt with right now. I think we are facing a very long and exhausting round of negotiations with the Heads of State present, but I do not believe in the agreement," Helme told Postimees' "Otse Postimehest" web broadcast.
Helme said the big issue in the debate is what the size of the European Union budget should be. "We have contributor countries and we have recipient countries. And the contributor states say that the budget must not increase, under any circumstances, to more than one percent of GDP. Given that the United Kingdom has left, this will mean significant budget cuts," said Helme.
"Then we have countries like Estonia, which get back about 2.5 euros for every euro they pay in from the next budget period. Of course, we are interested in making this budget as large as possible," said the Minister of Finance.
Although Estonia will remain a beneficiary country in the next budget period, it will receive less money in comparison to the previous budget period.
Another big dispute, Helme says, concerns priorities within the money that is already available. He said the injustice of paying agricultural subsidies to Estonia and other Baltic countries must be highlighted. "For us, this amount is not so important, but we want to be treated more or less the same as other countries," he said.
Helme said it is also important for Estonia that the money from the Cohesion Fund is not reduced.
"There are countries that have counterparties, there is the Commission, which has its own agenda, and then the European Parliament, which has many special interests," said Helme.
Helme said that the sooner the budget is agreed, the better, but if no agreement can be reached this year, then next year will continue with the old budget.
He said Germany's domestic political struggles have diminished the country's role in budget negotiations and that France, which also has a vigorous agenda, is trying to take the lead.
The government had an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to discuss the EU's next seven-year budget plan, he said, with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) on Thursday to travel to Brussels for extraordinary talks with the European Council.
Editor: Helen Wright