Commission President José Manuel Barroso made it clear, at the start of a public consultation on the review of the EU’s €126.5 billion/year ($175.6 billion) budget, that he regards the exercise as a unique opportunity to put all of the Union’s political priorities up for discussion.
Speaking to journalists in Brussels on 12 September 2007, Barroso said that the consultation on the EU’s spending priorities was, a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a reform of the budget and also a reform of the way we work”. He added: "This is about much more than money. This is about a vision for Europe." Barroso announced a “‘no-taboos’ debate on the EU’s spending priorities”, adding that "this also means a ‘no-taboos’ debate on future policy.” The size, structure and priorities of the EU’s annual spending - which amounts to €126.5 billion in 2007 - is governed by the Financial Perspectives, which were agreed after long and fierce discussions in 2006 and cover the period 2007-2013. At the same time, heads of state and government agreed on a review, to take place in 2008-2009, in order to evaluate the political priorities in the budget guidelines.
The consultation, opened on 12 September 2007 by Barroso and Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaitė, gives citizens an opportunity to provide input into these discussions. As was the case in the discussions on the Financial Perspectives, the most controversial issue of the Review is set to be the current 44% (€55 billion) share of the budget that is set aside for agricultural subsidies. The Common Agricultural Policy is up for a ‘health check’ between November 2007 and the end of 2008, and the CAP share of the budget is already set to decrease to 32% by 2013.
Commissioner Grybauskaitė, who has repeatedly argued in favor of even-deeper cuts in agricultural spending, said that the consultation “should prepare the ground for a renewed consensus on future priority policies and how they should be financed.”
On 5-6 November, Commissioner Grybauskaitė will take part in a parliamentary conference in Lisbon “on the political vision of the European Communities’ Budget Review: Key Future Policies and Spending Priorities and the Reform of the Own Resources System”.
The public consultation period will end on 15 April 2008.
A conference in Brussels at the end of May 2008 will be based on the consultation. (euractiv.hu)