Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, believes he has a way to close the EU budget black hole left by Brexit – and poorer bloc members will be hit the hardest.
In a blog post, he called for EU members who contribute more than they receive, such as Germany, France and the Netherlands, will be charged with plugging the gap in the Brussels budget.
However, those countries taking more from the EU than they put in would “have to accept more control over their structural projects in exchange for avoiding drastic cuts”, according to Mr Oettinger’s plan.
He explains: “One of the mechanisms by which this could work is conditionality. It means that structural funds are more aligned with structural reforms the EU wants the Member States to carry out.
“Every year, the EU Commission gives recommendations to its Member States on how to strengthen its economy, be it investments in broadband, universities or others, without any obligation to do so.
“One could therefore think of a positive conditionality: If these recommendations are implemented, the Member State would get extra money from a fund. But one could also make it work the other way round, as negative conditional ties.”
In Mr Oettinger’s blog post he also goes on to suggest that half of the money needed to close the budget gap left by Brexit should come from additional money by net payers, while the other half should come from cuts to existing EU programmes.
He explains that some EU beneficiaries “will have to accept some cuts in the existing programmes”.
Mr Oettinger said: “At the moment, we are reviewing every single programme in terms of his added value.
“If it does pass the test, ok. If not, it will be scrapped. At the end, this means that in terms of cuts and extra money, we will also have to strike a fair deal.”
Mr Oettinger is in Romania today before heading to Bulgaria to discuss EU finances with senior politicians. Given that both Romania and Bulgaria receive considerably more from the EU pot than they put in, it is unclear how well these comments will go down.
According to European Commission data from 2015, the highest net contribution to the EU pot came from Germany, followed by Britain, France and the Netherlands.
The lowest net contribution came from Poland, followed by the Czech Republic and Romania.