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16 June, 2024
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EU Council's ''historic'' decision to benefit Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia

European Council fails to revise 2021-2027 budget

By Alexandra Voudouri

Without agreement on the European budget, the first day of the European Council meeting was concluded at 2.30 Brussels time (3.30 a.m. on Friday), as no "common ground" was found on the revision of the budget (2021-2027), due to lack of unanimity.

According to a statement by European Council President Charles Michel, there was broad political support among the "26" on the budget review proposal, which he described as fairly balanced, except for one country, which he did not name, while Sweden needs to "pass" the relevant decisions through its parliament.

For this reason, the issue of the budget review will come up again at the beginning of 2024, the President of the European Council said, expressing that a unanimous agreement should be reached soon as the crucial issue of economic aid to Ukraine remains outstanding, as well as others raised by other leaders, notably migration. However, he said he believes that "we have various tools to ensure that we deliver on our promises".

"Veto" from Hungary
Negotiations had been interrupted several times earlier, as consultations were held bilaterally between European leaders, but also at a technical level. According to European diplomatic sources, there was a "political understanding" among the "26", but Hungary remained adamant on financial assistance to Ukraine, which was being considered in the context of the revision of the multiannual financial framework.

In particular, European leaders were discussing a proposal for a mid-term budget review that included €17 billion in grants and €33 billion in off-budget loans to Kiev.

Viktor Orbán's "veto" eventually remained the main obstacle to an agreement. The Hungarian prime minister proposed a separate fund for Ukraine and assistance from member states on a voluntary basis, but several leaders raised the issue of control of these funds.

The latest proposal by Council President Charles Michel also reduced the amount of new funding to member states from €22.5 billion to €21 billion by 2027 as a "compromise" to the group of so-called "thrifts" who wanted the "fresh" money to be reduced.

"Strong message - Historic moment"
Despite failing to reach agreement on the budget, the Council did however yesterday (Thursday) endorse the opening of accession negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova and the granting of EU candidate status to Georgia.

"We have sent a strong message to European and Ukrainian citizens," said Charles Michel, adding that "this is a historic moment."

"We have taken a huge step in the right direction. And again we surprised everyone as we were able to take a strong decision on enlargement in record time," he said.

Work on the second day of the European Council is expected to start at 11am GMT on Friday with the situation in the Middle East another issue "dividing" the 27.

As the European Council President commented, the implications of the evolving situation in the Middle East will be examined, while the "27" leaders will also discuss ways to tackle anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in Europe.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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