Who’s glad, sad and mad about EU budget plan

A long battle lies ahead but some likely winners and losers have already emerged.

The European Commission’s plan for the next long-term EU budget has ministers, lobbyists, farmers, scientists, mayors and many others scanning spreadsheets and poring over PDFs to find out how they will be affected.

It will be weeks before the Commission provides more details of the €1.279 trillion plan — which will then be the subject of months, if not years, of wrangling between governments, lawmakers and lobby groups. Here’s a selection of those who look like early winners and losers from Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s blueprint for the years 2021 to 2027.

? Glad: Baltic farmers
Farmers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — some of the Continent’s most downtrodden — emerged as surprise winners. While many farmers will be licking their wounds after the announcement of a roughly 4 percent cut to direct subsidies, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said Baltic farmers will receive a 13.6 percent bump.

Brussels currently gives farmers from some countries, mainly ex-communist states in Eastern Europe, considerably less per hectare than their counterparts in countries such as France and Italy, due to a formula meant to account for lower land and labor prices. In the face of longstanding complaints about the policy, Brussels plans to restrict farm money for countries that have done well so far and redistribute some savings to those who have fared worst.

? Mad: Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden
These “frugal four” net contributors to the EU budget face being whacked twice. They’re being asked to increase their national contributions and lose the rebates they receive. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the Commission’s proposal “far from an acceptable solution.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte used similar language. Sweden’s Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson brandished perhaps the ultimate Scandinavian insult: “unreasonable.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen tweeted, “A smaller EU should mean a smaller budget!”

? Glad: Tank drivers
Military commanders have been arguing that it would take too long to move tanks and other hardware across the Continent if they had to respond to a big emergency. Brussels has saluted smartly and plans to allocate €6.5 billion from its Connecting Europe fund to upgrade infrastructure to make sure it is fit for heavy military vehicles.

?? Sad & mad: British boffins
What’s worse than knowing you’re being shut out of a major source of income for cutting-edge research? Finding out that pot of money is going to be much bigger in future. That’s the scenario facing British scientists. The next EU research program, Horizon Europe, is growing by nearly 30 percent while their national spending pot stagnates. U.K. researchers will be out of the EU program as full members after 2020; if the U.K. chooses to join as an associate member, it must pay its way and its involvement could well be restricted to only parts of Horizon Europe. That will be quite a change: British researchers are on track to win over €11 billion by the end of the current program, Horizon 2020. Brussels is struggling to hide its Schadenfreude. “It’s not only that the cake is bigger than before, but that the guy that was eating more of that cake is not anymore around the table,” a Commission official said.

? Glad: Big pharma and engineering firms
Big corporate names such as Merck, Pfizer, Airbus and Thalys are among the businesses that take part in the EU research program, and just some of those that will benefit hugely from the Commission’s plans. Brussels is proposing to give industry a more prominent role in Horizon Europe than in Horizon 2020. The Commission says its plans to hand out billions of euros to “clusters” where industry works with academics on issues like health and mobility will help tackle the big challenges facing Europe. NGOs say it’ll limit progress in favor of private sector interests.

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