European leaders in all-night talks as disagreements persist on next EU budget

Diplomats do not expect EU leaders to reach an agreement tonight as they meet in a special summit to discuss the next seven-year budget plan

Prime Minister Robert Abela is at his first EU summit
Prime Minister Robert Abela is at his first EU summit

EU leaders are holding one-on-one meetings with European Council President Charles Michel after a plenary session held on Thursday afternoon to discuss the next budget.

There are disagreements with the plan put on the table as the EU has to contend with a budget that will be shorn of the contribution made by the UK.

The special summit is discussing the next seven-year plan, known as the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) that will cover the period 2021-2027.

In comments after the plenary session ended on Thursday night, Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela said talks will continue until leaders either decide that no agreement has been reached and the meeting adjourns to another summit, or conclude talks and close the chapter.

After the bilateral meetings are over, Michel is expected to revert back to the council with developments. A fresh proposal is expected to be delivered early in the morning.

However, diplomats are not expecting an agreement to be concluded in this summit.

The UK’s exit leaves a gap of around €75 billion over the seven-year period, which makes it hard for the remaining 27 states to adjust to a reduced budget.

European Council President Charles Michel has put forward a budget that would commit the bloc to spending €1.095 trillion over seven years.

The big question is how to carve up those funds into three main components: agriculture, regional development (cohesion funding) and newer priorities such as research and innovation, defence, migration and student exchanges.

Michel’s plan proposes cuts to cohesion funding of 12% and a reduction of nearly 14% in agriculture spending. These are expected to hurt some countries more than others.

Malta, which has been a big recipient of cohesion funding, is likely to see its budget share drop under the proposal. 

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