The European Council in Brussels on Thursday and Friday focused on changes to the EU budget. Although an agreement is still to be reached by the end of December, several member state leaders have already expressed their opposition to the European Commission's proposed supplementary budget.
The European Commission has proposed to increase the EU budget by €100 billion, of which €67 billion would come from additional contributions from member states and €33 billion from additional borrowing, the Financial Times reported.
Half of the additional spending proposed should go to Ukraine. Under the Commission's plans, Kyiv would receive €17 billion in direct financial assistance and €33 billion in loans.
Despite the fact that Hungary and Slovakia have voiced opposition to providing aid to Ukraine, the other member states' leaders remain optimistic that they can be persuaded otherwise.
Slovakia's new prime minister, Robert Fico, has said that Ukraine is a corrupt country and has asked for greater control over assistance to Ukraine, he has also said that he will only support humanitarian aid to Kyiv. Fico also suggested using Ukrainian funds to pay for border protection between Slovakia and Ukraine.
Even more controversial is the remaining €50 billion, which the European Commission has suggested could be used to cover the EU's own needs. Some of the money would have to be used to cover the interest on the EU's larger-than-expected joint pandemic loan.
A majority of member state leaders said they would not support the Commission's €1.9 billion request for additional funds to cover its own increased staff costs.
The European Commission and the Spanish presidency of the European Union warn that if the Commission's proposal to increase the Community budget fails, Brussels would have to cut funding to member states in critical areas by as much as 30 percent. According to the Swedish government's report, 4 percent cut would suffice.
While southern European countries are more supportive of the Commission's proposal and even want to see more resources devoted to alleviating the problem of migratory flows, northern European member states such as the Netherlands and Germany are opposed to the Commission's current proposal.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo disagrees with the Commission's proposal. "We are asking the Commission and the other institutions to look at their own funding and to seek out money that is not being used to its full potential, rather than asking member states to contribute more," De Croo said.
Denmark said that the Commission has not allocated nearly €16 billion in funding to member states, which Copenhagen says could be painlessly cut.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that, in addition to further aid for Ukraine, changes to the EU budget must focus on the EU's own security and on boosting the competitiveness of EU business. She pointed out that the current EU budget was drawn up before the pandemic and the war.
"We have to take into account the crisis we are currently facing. We did not anticipate a pandemic, but we also did not anticipate a war; now we must invest more in national security," Kallas said.
Editor: Mark Gerassimenko, Kristina Kersa
Source: Financial Times/Euractiv/The Guardian