EU Briefs

The Budget

On 23 February, 27 EU leaders met in Brussels for an informal summit in part to debate the new EU budget after 2020.

Talks focused on the size of the budget, as well as the estimated revenue gap that might be caused by Brexit – which officials have put at €12 billion to €15 billion annually. At the summit, leaders agreed that the EU should spend more on “stemming illegal migration”, on security, and on continuing Erasmus.

Fourteen countries said they would contribute more to the EU budget. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told reporters that the Irish government is willing to contemplate increasing its contributions over the next five years, if other countries do likewise.

He also wanted specific programmes protected, he said, including the Common Agricultural Policy, Erasmus, and Horizon 2020.

One point of debate was around the “conditionality” of the post-2020 budget. In other words, whether EU funding should be linked somehow to respect for the EU values, a suggestion that has been made by the European Commission.

Countries that do not pull their weight in, say, accepting refugees or abiding by the rule of law, would get less money. At the moment, officials and politicians are debating these options.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said that payments should depend on receiving refugees – which would mainly affect Poland and Hungary. The commission will table its proposal for the next long-term EU budget in early May 2018.

Two More Seats

Ireland may get two more seats in the European Parliament.

If Brexit goes ahead, the European Parliament would shrink from 751 to 705 MEPs, after a vote last month by MEPs. Parliament also approved a redistribution of seats, part of which would spread 27 former British seats among 14 under-represented EU countries. That includes Ireland, which currently has 11 seats.

It is up to the European Council now to approve the new allocation, and then the legislation would return to the European Parliament for the final vote.

At first, the Constitutional Affairs Committee called for a number of MEPs to be elected from transnational lists, but the house didn’t go for that right now.

Too soft

The European Consumer Organisation BEUC has criticized the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection for voting in February for weaker rules on consumer-protection.

The European Commission had proposed that for two years after a product is sold, the burden of proof should be on the seller to prove that it wasn’t faulty.

Under the updated proposals, it would still be up to traders to prove that the product was fine at a moment of delivery, but only for a period of up to one year after purchase.

For consumers, they should be able to ask for remedy for a year without having to prove that the defect already existed when they received the product. After that year, they’ll have to prove it was defective.

“Consumer rights should be strengthened, not weakened,” wrote Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organization in a statement.

The proposed rules would apply to both online and offline sales, so via the Internet or over the counter. The European Parliament committee will now start negotiations with the European Council.

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