Saturday, March 05, 2005

The pain in Spain II

Little José Manuel Barroso, the EU commission president, was in Finland yesterday, addressing a 10-year jubilee seminar of Finland's EU membership at the University of Helsinki.

While there, he took the opportunity to return to his favourite pre-occupation, the EU budget. Pleading with member states not to cut his funds, he told reporters that such a measure would jeopardize economic growth, security and efforts to help the developing world.

Referring to the German stance of limiting the budget to one percent of the collective GDP of member states, he warned: "It's impossible to go on with the current commitments of Europe with less money. We cannot accept the positions of some member states of the so-called '1 percent club.' It's impossible to meet all the challenges we have now at 25 (members) by reducing the budget."

But if Barroso is getting worked up about his funding, the Spanish government is incandescent, totally rejecting the Commission’s plans for 2007-2013 as "absolutely intolerable!. And it sound even better in Spanish: "El Gobierno veta el presupuesto de la UE por el 'intolerable' plan de recorte de fondos."

This is the Spanish secretary of state for finance, Miguel Angel Ordonez, who had snuck into Brussels while Barroso was away on his jolly, telling all and sundry that the Spanish government would never agree to the commission proposals.

The cause of Ordonez's ire is the plan to cut Spain's net funding, which amounted to more than €8.7bn in 2003, to €1.883bn in 2007 and gradually thereafter to zero by 2010, before becoming a net contributor to EU funds to the tune of €135m in 2013.

Given that the Spanish government has just turned in a "yes" vote for the EU constitution, poor old Ordonez might have expected a reward for his country's fidelity, but all he is getting is a package that will, according to official calculations, result in the creation of 30,000 fewer jobs per year in Spain between 2007 and 2013.

Considering how much Spain is supposed to have benefited from membership of the EU, perhaps someone should have told Ordonez that there is no gain without pain… and now the pain's in Spain. Tough.

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