All political parties in Portugal, including the government, have challenged the move, saying Brussels is sending out the wrong message to member states and the proposal is not conducive to European unity. Overall, cuts by the EU will amount to just under 1.3 billion euros over a seven year period.
Reacting to the news, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said he was still hoping that Brussels would apply “common sense” and improve the proposal presented earlier this week.
He echoed the sentiments expressed by fellow Portuguese politicians, saying the proposal is a “bad starting point.”
Despite fears that Portugal stands to lose sizeable amounts due to these proposed funding cuts, the prime minister was confident that “the end result for Portugal could be entirely different from the current one.”
Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, meanwhile pledged that the country would assume a “constructive” stance when negotiating EU funding for the period from 2020 to 2027 following this week’s draft budget.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a multi-year budget for the EU for the period 2021-2027 of €1.279 billion. That includes cuts of five percent in Cohesion Policy - which is aimed at reducing economic divergence between regions - and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and of which Portugal is a prominent beneficiary.
According to the Commission, the proposed budget is “a pragmatic one” that offsets the loss of revenues resulting from the UK’s departure from the EU, which until now has been a net contributor to the budget. Reductions in spending and new revenues will occur “in identical proportions” from member states, so maintaining a budget with amounts “comparable to the scale of the current budget of 2014-2020” once inflation is taken into account.
Portugal has meanwhile expressed concern at maintaining certain expectations of its role within the EU, saying these cuts would “mean that it would not be possible to accommodate a new financial dimension of the policies necessary in the EU, such as support for [handling] migration, security and defence policies, external policy and humanitarian aid, without sacrificing the Common Agricultural Policy and cohesion policies.”
Portugal is also open to ideas that the EU introduces a tax to boost revenue within the union, though this thinking has also been strongly criticised in influential quarters.
In delivering the EU budget proposal, Jean-Claude Juncker said he saw the new budget as an opportunity to shape the EU’s future as a new, ambitious Union of 27, bound together by solidarity.
“With this proposal we have put forward a pragmatic plan for how to do more with less. The economic wind in our sails gives us some breathing space, but does not shelter us from having to make savings in some areas”, he said, adding: “We will ensure sound financial management through the first ever rule of law mechanism. This is what it means to act responsibly with our taxpayers’ money. The ball is now in the court of Parliament and Council. I strongly believe we should aim to reach an agreement before the European Parliament elections next year.”
Under the new budget, the EU is also looking to enforce greater respect for the rule of law by directly associating funding with the compliance of member states.
The new proposed tools would allow the Union to suspend, reduce or restrict access to EU funding in a manner proportionate to the nature, gravity and scope of the rule of law deficiencies.