|Prime Minister Donald Tusk cuts a euro cake in celebration of Poland's budget "victory"|
Courtesy of KPRM/Flicker
After hours of heated negotiations, EU leaders agreed to cut a further €12 billion from the bloc's most recent long-term budget proposal last week, bringing the total size of the budget down to €960 billion for the 2014-2020 period.
The EU summit was a clash between two camps, one led by the UK, which wanted to cut the budget proposal, submitted in November, by as much as €30 billion. The other was headed by France, with vocal support from Poland, which wanted to keep the November proposal intact. Somewhere in between was Germany, which tried to bridge the gap between these two factions.
When the summit started without a new proposal from European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, everyone predicted a long night of discussions, arguments, and calculations. But soon reports of agreement began to emerge.
The only problem that remained for the politicians was figuring out how to emerge from the talks as victors and to be seen in their countries as successful negotiators. The leaders got down to discussing precisely where and how much to cut, and how to sell the agreement to the public.
Finally, at around 6 am CET on Friday, Reuters reported an unnamed EU official as saying, "We feel pretty confident that we have the framework for a deal."
"The deal is not completely finalized, but we feel sure it will be done today," the source added.
After another few hours of talks, new details emerged that Poland had received a favorable deal. The country would receive €106 billion over the course of the next seven years (compared to the €101.5 that it got in the current 2007-2013 budget). Cohesion policy funds for Poland would increase from €69 billion to €72.8 billion, while funds for agriculture would increase from €26.9 billion to €28.5 billion. Another €200 million is designated for Poland to fight youth unemployment.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk grinned widely and claimed victory, since Poland would be receiving €5 billion more than in the current budget, despite the overall budget being cut by some €40 million in comparison with the 2007-2013 plan.
"This is one of the happiest days of my life," the prime minister told reporters. "I don't think I will ever be able to do something like that for Poland again," he added, indicating how great he felt the achievement was.
At last, after a short second round of discussions, all the parties involved announced the successful end of budgetary talks.
The final agreement was deemed a success in most EU countries. The Daily Telegraph called it "a major victory for David Cameron." Leszek Miller, from Polish opposition party the Democratic Left Alliance, suggested jokingly on Twitter that Mr Tusk "grab the [proposed] money and run."
None of this means, however, that the budget is finalized. Now the European Parliament will have to vote on it, and its passage isn't certain. During the summit, EP President Martin Schulz repeated often that he would not approve a 2014-2020 budget that was smaller than the one for 2007-2013.
For the first time in history, the EP's vote on the budget will likely be secret, freeing MEPs from the political obligation to vote with their national parties and increasing the chances that the budget will be voted down.
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