The EU summit has been generally deemed a flop. And indeed, a two day event with 27 european leaders who then go home empty handed cannot be considered a success. Such meetings should be so prepared as to ensure that agreement is reached. At the same time we cannot ignore Europe’s plight. Not only is the continent in recession, but more than ever before, the differences regarding the scale and direction of further integration is splitting the EU into distinct camps.
The UK is now exceptionally euro sceptic and a summit which could have shown an isolated David Cameron, merely served to fuel euroscepticism. At least the UK did not use their veto and the feeling that it was the only the fault of the UK that an agreement was not reached was avoided.
The summit also managed to significantly bridge the gap between those in favour of austerity and those in favour of increasing the budget. From the perspective of the net payers, the 30 billion euro haggled over concerns the principle more than the substance as this expenditure will be spread out over the next seven years. In other words four billion euro a year borne by all payers. These are nominal sums, although for Poland these are much more significant than for the net payers because of the differences in nominal GDP. As the cost of living in Poland is now at 64% of the EU average, that figure takes into account the lower cost of living. Nominal comparisons are considerably less advantageous for Poland – our income expressed in euros is on average three times lower than in Western Europe. Hence the big difference lies in what those figures mean to us. For the richer countries it’s a nominal figure, for us it’s not. The whole fight over the budget in Europe no longer concerns just money but shows that during times of crisis, austerity should be applied across the board. It is difficult to convince Dutch or German voters that when Europe is in recession, more money should be spent on cohesion programmes in central and eastern Europe or on rich farmers in France. Member states contribute around 1% of GDP to the EU budget. which means that growth or decline in previous spending levels has little impact on most countries. That is why Europe has split into the pro-austerity North and the pro-spending South. This time Poland has ranked with the South. In the long run this will not serve us in other areas such as budgetary discipline, competition or deregulation of services – areas where we should unequivocally be supporting the North. It is all the more important from the perspective of Poland’s position in the Union in ten years’ time.
Our unflagging pro-european stance and associated member status would be a factor which could considerably improve our position in Europe and in the immediate future would mean an improvement in our negotiating position. Over the next months one of the elements of our negotiating strategy should be this very aspect. For this places Poland not only in the position of a country needing these funds for its development but above all in the position of a country which will soon be an important partner. We would do well to remember this.
It is unlikely that during the next summit the parties will not reach an agreement. Now they are casting around for a compromise worded in a way which will allow the majority of participants to return home crying victory. The main players at the summit clearly considered that this will be easier to achieve by spreading out the whole discussion over two phases) The task at hand is to adequately prepare the next phase.