OPINION

Eu grows, funds wane

The stubborn refusal of the wealthier European Union nations, who are also the net contributors, to put more money into the bloc’s budget is not just a sign of national egotism, it is also an expression of political inconsistency. After all, it was these same nations that backed the plans for the Union’s latest expansion wave. A bigger budget would mean that wealthy states would have to contribute more to EU funds. If that is not the case, they should have scaled back on plans for eastern enlargement in the first place. Instead, they decided to let in 10 new countries whose per capita income is still dwarfed by the EU average. The EU governments went even further by allowing Romania and Bulgaria, not to mention the populous and relatively underdeveloped Turkey, into the waiting room. But these sort of paradoxes work against the integration project. The big European states cannot afford to shirk the price of their own decisions. This applies to all big members – and even more so to Britain. London got the much-cherished rebate in 1984 when the country was mired in a serious economic recession – which is no longer the case. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now taking refuge behind a special measure that increasingly looks like a provocative privilege. Blair’s argument that the EU must take a deep cut in its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is not groundless but it is not directly related to the rebate issue. The truth is that France gets the lion’s share of EU funds for the continent’s farmers. It’s time for a genuine European debate for a more effective and fairer distribution of these funds.