Commission wants bigger budget for smaller EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and EU Commissioner for Budget Gunther Oettinger sit next to each other, at the start of the plenary session on the EU's next long-term budget, in the European Parliament in Brussels, on May 2, 2018. - European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled "reasonable and responsible" plans Wednesday for a bigger post-Brexit budget worth 1.279 trillion euros covering 2021-2027. "Our proposals lead to an overall amount of 1.279 trillion euros," Juncker told the European Parliament, adding that it was equivalent to 1.1 percent of the European Union's economic output. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

A bigger budget for a smaller, more ambitious EU.

That is the political math of the European Commission’s proposal on Wednesday for a roughly €1.279 trillion spending plan for 2021 to 2027.

The proposal, unveiled in the European Parliament by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, will pose an even greater test of unity for the EU27 than the tense negotiations with the U.K. over its departure.

In squeezing and pushing not only to fill the roughly €13 billion annual hole that will be left by Brexit, but also to ramp up spending on new priorities, the Commission has set forth an initial list of winners and losers who will spend the next two years or more fighting bitterly to shape the final outcome.

For the wealthier northerners, most vocally the thrifty Dutch, Brussels is stretching the post-Brexit checkbook too far. The Eastern Europeans — the Hungarians and Poles above all — won’t take kindly to the barely concealed plans to punish them over alleged backsliding on democracy. The southerners will like the extra funding for border control to handle the migration crisis. Big Pharma will like increased spending on research. Farmers won’t be happy to see their subsidies go down.

Ultimately, the decision lies with the 27 leaders on the European Council, who in traditional fashion are expected to eventually negotiate through the night, with an array of last-minute buy-offs, compromises and concessions needed to secure a unanimous vote.

The financial blueprint unveiled by the Commission, called the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), smashes through the previous budget cap of 1 percent of the bloc’s gross national income (GNI), and seeks to push overall spending to 1.114 percent — even as the bloc loses Britain’s sizeable net contribution to EU coffers.

“The new budget framework … will decide the future of our Europe of 27 and will determine our legacy to forthcoming generations,” Juncker said. “The level of the budget is not without consequence. It is directly linked to our ambitions.”

Juncker insisted that the Commission has exercised restraint, by rigorously reviewing all existing programs for cuts and not simply putting forward the entire EU’s wish list, which he said would have been rejected out of hand by all 27 EU countries and most members of the European Parliament.