Richard North, 10/11/2012  

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At first sight, this is another squabble about the EU budget – except that this is not about the budget – the one that that nice Mr Cameron is getting worked up about. No, this is not about the multi-annual budget negotiations. It's about the annual budgets (plural) for 2012 and 2013.

The BBC piece tells us that the EU parliament and the council are having difficulty in establishing an "agreed position", where the EU commission is after another €9 billion (approx) in "emergency funding" to add to the already agreed €129.1 billion for 2012.

The problem here is that this brings the 2013 budget up to just over €137 billion – representing a 6.8 percent increase on the previous year. That is all fine and dandy except that the Council has already decided on its "common position" and it has gone for €132 billion – a 2.79 percent increase.

The need for this was flagged up a little while ago and what we are looking at here is a continuation of the budget procedure – where the EU parliament has the final say.

As it stands, with two different "common positions" - the EU parliament supporting the commission - the two parties have gone to conciliation. But these talks have now stalled. If the parties do not agree, or the EU parliament as a whole does not agree the final deal, then the budget falls. The commission has to start over, with a new proposal.

In the meantime, the "colleagues" are running to the wire – it is November and the new budget must be in place by the end of the year. If it isn't, the EU goes onto a fixed formula, which is basically this year's budget, paid in equal parts a month at a time.

What makes this doubly interesting is that the annual budget procedure is time-limited and, according to Süddeutsche, the conciliation procedure must be concluded by Tuesday. The standard allowance is 14 days.

Reuters seems to be enjoying the drama and it tells us that the commission is not getting a lot of sympathy from member states. This, then, is really about which institution is going to blink first, the EU parliament or the council. The commission is just a spectator in this particular process.

Anything which adds dissent and confusion to our enemies, however, is all good fun, especially as a second report from Reuters refers to the talks collapsing "in acrimony". This I like, although I suspect the "colleagues" may not be too happy. When it comes to the EU, acrimony is good.


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