Brussels: European Union leaders meet in Brussels on Friday for an informal summit to discuss the future post-Brexit budget and other issues, such as how to determine the next European Commission president and what to do with Britain’s seats in the European Parliament.
The following are comments from leaders arriving at the summit.
DUTCH PRIME MINSTER MARK RUTTE
“I think we are already paying quite a bit (into the EU budget) and there is good reason for that. I think we need to modernise, which is possible. I think we need to make funds available for modern topics such as cyber crime, where we need to work together, within the existing budgets. So no increase, modernise. Britain is leaving so that part needs to be removed from the budget.”
“It is always good to mark your positions in Europe. I agree with others who say we need to talk about priorities. I hope there is space, which we didn’t manage seven years ago, to really modernise in cohesion policy, agricultural funds and regional funds.”
“The Dutch proposal is to link structural funds and cohesion funds to the amount to which countries are implementing reforms in their national economies, upholding the stability and growth pact, implementing country-specific recommendations.”
On being isolated in Europe...
“I have had so many difficult issues to discuss over the past seven years. Sometimes it works.”
“You can judge me on doing what I can to prevent that (more money from the Netherlands goes to the EU)”
Impact on Dutch economy of a hard Brexit...
“Not devastating, but it will have an impact... I really believe that as the 27 we have a position that we want to stay as closely associated with the UK as possible, but for example for membership of the internal market that means certain obligations. Membership of the customs union means certain obligations. It’s always that if you want something there are certain rules we all have to abide by.”
DANISH PRIME MINISTER LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN
“Well I think it is quite obvious that we need some conditionality. If you are a member of the European Union you are a full member, which comes with rights and obligations. You have to balance that.”
LITHUANIA PRESIDENT DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE
On the budget....
“It is a matter of political decisions how we manage to decide on size. That is a matter of political will. We have a lot of new challenges as well as the Brexit. That means between the payments after Brexit and the promises of new policies there is a lack of financial resources of about 20 percent. We have to decide to either decrease the budget or find new European resources or taxes or to reduce some other old programmes. It is up to us to discuss.”
“Under the treaties the purpose of the cohesion funds, the structural funds is better convergence, not for anything else.”
On future European Commission president....
“Again under the treaties, again, there is the notion that any decision on the candidates for the European positions need to reflect the outcome of the European elections. Those are foreseen for May 2019, not before.”