While the UK is still busy Brexitting and presumably will be for the next few years, the European Council is currently negotiating the new EU budget. The budget in question outlines the EU’s expenditure for 2021-2027 and has led to a fair few member states trying to escape through the bathroom window.
Thus far, the five nations who have forgotten their pin are Germany, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands. They are also known as member states who are net contributors, whereas Southern and Eastern member states are mostly net recipients.
Aside from receiving fewer EU funds, the cheap five are also don’t like where the money tends to end up.
Instead of innovation, education or green energy, most of the money goes to places that have nothing to do with them. Think subsidies for unprofitable gorgonzola farmers and regional funds for the poorer member states, instead of innovation and sophistication.
Of course, there is evidence of corruption and inefficiency in how the budget is spent. No, we don’t mean: “THE EU SPENT €53 OF TAXPAYERS MONEY ON NESPRESSO PODS”, but some of the regional and agricultural funds have gotten in the hands of the corrupt.
Hungary received about €25 billion over the last six years, and a good portion of it has been spent on unnecessary projects to benefit Prime Minister Orban himself. Projects include a €10 million ice rink and €2 million on a ‘vintage railway’ between Orban’s childhood villages.
The EU has been trying to address this, but according to Orban and friends making funds conditional on democracy and other such delights would be ‘attacking member states’. And because the EU is so ‘undemocratic’, they’ve been able to do nothing about it.
To continue the group dinner analogy, it is true that countries like Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria are getting most of the beef for the least money. But, let’s not forget why the EU 27 are sitting at the table in the first place. The Germans and the Dutch are here to sell, and that’s what they’ve been doing.
For every train station built in Victor Orban’s home town, Germany sells a few million Audis to his dodgy friends.
Thanks to the largest free trade block in the world, 71% of Dutch goods and 59% of German goods are exported to other EU countries. On the whole, the cheap five only spent 0.8% to 0.7% of their GDP on the EU budget, while estimated gains from selling potatoes and microchips at no cost to the 26 other countries are around nine-fold.
Think of it this way, Belgium spends about the same percentage of its national budget on sports and double that on its military, as it does on the EU. You be the judge on what money’s better spent. Wait, what? There’s a Belgian army?
So, while budget scrutiny is right to avoid more multi-million-euro ice rinks in Orban’s back garden, the EU does give bang for your buck. Otherwise, the Brits wouldn’t have spent three times what they used to pay the EU on Brexit contingency planning.
Meanwhile, Boris is still lurking at the bar threatening to leave unless they’re given a menu that exclusively consists of scones, luke-warm beer and shepherd’s pie.