The EU budget review

Although it can­not be exact­ly con­sid­ered as a high­ly salient top­ic in Spain, it is worth men­tion­ing that the nation­al pref­er­ences in the process of EU bud­getary reform were pub­lished after the summer.[1] The con­fer­ence held in Brus­sels on 12 Novem­ber of 2008 marked the end of the pub­lic-debate phase that began with the Euro­pean Commission’s pre­sen­ta­tion of an issues paper in Sep­tem­ber 2007. It also marked the begin­ning of a new phase in which the Com­mis­sion is expect­ed to present a White Paper in mid-2009, with dis­cus­sion lat­er among EU lead­ers. In this con­text, the Span­ish government’s posi­tion on bud­getary reform and in ensu­ing nego­ti­a­tions on finan­cial prospects after 2014 will be dif­fer­ent from that which it held in ear­li­er dis­cus­sions on bud­getary issues. Although Spain has been a net ben­e­fi­cia­ry of EU funds since it joined the bloc, one can expect that, start­ing in 2013, it will achieve a net bal­ance that is in equi­lib­ri­um with regard to the EU. Thus, any bud­getary reform that is agreed will have a sig­nif­i­cant effect on Spain. Reform­ing the income-and-spend­ing aspect of the EU bud­get takes on spe­cial impor­tance for Spain because of the finan­cial impli­ca­tions that such changes might have in the con­text of future nego­ti­a­tions. Thus, the net bal­ance depends not just on the future of the cohe­sion pol­i­cy and pos­si­ble new poli­cies, but also on reforms of the Com­mon Agri­cul­ture Pol­i­cy (CAP), a huge­ly impor­tant part of the EU bud­get. In fact, Spain now receives more for agri­cul­ture than in struc­tur­al funds, and that trend is going to con­tin­ue in the com­ing years. On the oth­er hand, the new posi­tion could be seen as a com­fort­able spot from which to launch ini­tia­tives, main­ly in dis­cus­sions on new poli­cies, includ­ing the role played by the Lis­bon Strat­e­gy, and on the future of the cohe­sion pol­i­cy. The Span­ish gov­ern­ment might try to take advan­tage of its posi­tion and aim its focus on over­all debate cov­er­ing both EU rev­enues and expen­di­tures in order to keep all its options open.[2]

The Span­ish con­tri­bu­tion to the process of con­sul­ta­tion launched by the Com­mis­sion stress­es two lines or basic prin­ci­ples: fair­ness in rev­enues and qual­i­ty in expen­di­ture, and it is based on the posi­tion held in nego­ti­a­tions on Finan­cial Per­spec­tives for the peri­od 2007–13, in which Spain has defend­ed three basic prin­ci­ples, which are still valid: the ‘prin­ci­ple of suf­fi­cien­cy of bud­getary means’, the ‘prin­ci­ple of fair dis­tri­b­u­tion of the costs of enlarge­ment’ and final­ly, in appli­ca­tion of the ‘prin­ci­ple of grad­u­al­ism’, in the last nego­ti­a­tions Spain defend­ed the need for ade­quate tran­si­tion­al mea­sures for those regions which lose their eli­gi­bil­i­ty for the Cohe­sion Fund, either because of a ‘sta­tis­ti­cal effect’ or through nat­ur­al growth. Regard­ing the spend­ing side of the bud­get, new pri­or­i­ties to defend were intro­duced in the last nego­ti­a­tions and they stem from chal­lenges such as migra­tion since Spain con­sid­ers it will be essen­tial to devel­op a Euro­pean immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy with spe­cif­ic goals and a bud­get with enough fund­ing to respond to the chal­lenge. Oth­er new poli­cies would be the pro­mo­tion of renew­able ener­gies and invest­ment in research, devel­op­ment and inno­va­tion (R+D+I).[3]

Pre­cise­ly, the impor­tance that the Span­ish gov­ern­ment gives now to bridg­ing the ‘tech­no­log­i­cal gap’ that exists between the North West­ern most devel­oped coun­tries of the EU and oth­er mem­ber states – such as Spain –, is quite present in the cur­rent polit­i­cal dis­course. The increase in bud­getary resources avail­able for tech­no­log­i­cal innovation[4], the pri­or­i­ty giv­en to the Lis­bon Agen­da (which has con­tin­ued dur­ing the Zap­a­tero years despite the Strat­e­gy was orig­i­nal­ly set out in Lis­bon in March 2000 with­in the frame­work of the mutu­al under­stand­ing between Tony Blair and José María Aznar), the cre­ation of a new Min­istry of Sci­ence and Inno­va­tion some months ago, as well as Spain’s efforts to serve as head­quar­ters for the Euro­pean Insti­tute for Inno­va­tion and Tech­nol­o­gy are some exam­ples of this pri­or­i­ty which is obvi­ous­ly con­nect­ed to the deep eco­nom­ic cri­sis and the need to change a growth mod­el based on low skill labour and high weight of the con­struc­tion sec­tor dur­ing the last decade. How­ev­er, to over­come the tech­no­log­i­cal dis­tance between Spain and the most advanced EU mem­bers requires much more effort.

 

 

 

[1] See the Span­ish con­tri­bu­tion to the response to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion issues paper, avail­able at: http//ec.europea.eu/budget/reform/issues (last access: 30 March 2009).
[2] See Cristi­na Ser­ra­no and Mario Kölling, 2009, Spain and EU Bud­getary Reform (Elcano Roy­al Insti­tute WP 12/2009), avail­able at: www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano_eng/Content?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/Elcano_in/Zonas_in/Europe/DT12-2009 (last access: 30 March 2009).
[3] See Cristi­na Ser­ra­no and Mario Kölling, 2009 (ibi­dem).
[4] In recent years spend­ing on R+D+I in Spain increased around 100%, achiev­ing in 2007 a record of €6,450 million.