As Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt heads for an extraordinary EU summit today, she may not be stopped by security at the airport, but according to one official, she has an A-bomb in her handbag; If the EU doesn’t give Denmark a rebate, it’s budget veto time.
‘A’ is the official parliamentary letter for the Danish Social Democratic Party.
“We insist that the Danish EU contribution is corrected to the tune of DKK1.1 billion,” the prime minister said on Tuesday during her weekly news conference.
That is a message that Thorning-Schmidt will have 10 minutes to explain to EU President Herman van Rompuy and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso when they hold two-on-one, 10-minute meetings with all 27 heads of state and government today.
And although Denmark has been trying to canvas support for its rebate among other member countries – it has met little if no sympathy.
“We are completely alone. No-one is fighting for the Danish position…We have good arguments, but we cannot expect to have any allies,” Thorning-Schmidt tells Børsen.
France, certainly, is not one of them. President François Hollande has issued a broadside at countries coming to the summit “to get their cheques, their rebates, their deductions” adding that there is rather a need for solidarity.
While France does not believe in rebates, it is vehemently against plans to cut agricultural subsidies, which French farmers benefit from considerably.
Thorning-Schmidt is not the only Dane who appears to lack allies in the EU political system.
EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who is looking for added investments in innovation, research and energy, says she hopes heads of state and government will not only be serving their own national interests.
“When it comes down to it, I hope that those at the summit won’t just think in national terms but what serves Europe as a region,” Hedegaard says.
Hedegaard is concerned that her wish for innovation, research and energy investment will be overshadowed by member states with their own particular positions on agricultural subsidies and under-developed regions.
“Some of those who would naturally defend innovation, research, a greener budget, transport and energy – typically some of the northern and western countries – have high priorities on other national interests,” Hedegaard says, but declines to criticise Denmark, adding that Helle Thorning-Schmidt has several demands for the budget summit.
Apart from Denmark’s rebate, the Danish prime minister wants the EU budget to be no greater than one per cent of gross national income as well as calling for increased investment in research, climate and education.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood