Eastern countries commit to bigger EU budget after Brexit

In Budapest, Oettinger wins commitments — but from eight net recipients of EU budget funds

Eight EU countries on Friday committed to increase budget contributions to the bloc’s next long-term spending plan — a symbolic gesture considering all currently get more money from Brussels than they send.

At a meeting in Budapest with Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, ministers from the eight countries — Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia — said they were willing to raise the EU budget cap to 1.1 percent of the bloc’s gross national income (GNI), from the longstanding limit of 1 percent.

For years the politically significant 1 percent GNI cap has been an iron-clad demand of the biggest net payers to the EU budget, including Germany, France and the U.K.

But with the U.K.’s departure projected to leave an annual budget hole of more than €12 billion, and demands for increased sending on numerous other programs, Oettinger and other officials have said there is little choice but to seek an increase in national contributions, as well as impose some cuts.

Oettinger has called for raising the spending cap to 1.1x of GNI, with the x to be decided in negotiations among EU27 leaders.

“I am extremely grateful for the eight member states that they were willing to contribute a bit more” — Günther Oettigner

Some net contributors to the EU budget, like Austria, have already voiced opposition to increased payments, while Germany, the EU’s wealthiest country and biggest budget contributor, has already declared its willingness to pay more.

At a news conference with Oettinger, János Lázár, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff, declared the meeting a success.

“On a Friday morning in gloomy, rainy and cloudy weather, it’s probably not one of the best experiences you can get here in Budapest, still I can say it was worthwhile to meet,” Lázár said. He added, “The eight countries agreed with the increasing of the GNI proportionate payment, which is a major success of the day, because eight countries opened the opportunity that the payments should increase even up to 1.1 percent.”

Noting the impact of Brexit, he said: “There are going to be less revenues plus more tasks.” He added, “We are encouraging the Commission to have an ambitious budget.”

Oettinger said the meeting gave him confidence that a deal could be reached on the long-term budget, known as the multi-annual financial framework, and he thanked the countries for their willingness to pay more into the collective coffers.

“I am extremely grateful for the eight member states that they were willing to contribute a bit more,” he said.

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