July 15. 2024. 6:33

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Far right’s Bardella vows ‘€2 to €3 billion’ cut in French contribution to EU budget

The President of France’s far-right Rassemblement national, Jordan Bardella, told business leaders on Thursday (20 June) that if he were appointed prime minister after the snap elections, he would cut country’s contribution to the EU budget by “€2 to €3 billion”—something that, from a legal point of view, would be virtually impossible.

Barely three weeks after the sweeping victory of the far-right party at the European elections prompted President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the national parliament, France is holding snap elections in two rounds on 30 June and 7 July, with polls giving a distinctive advantage to Bardella’s RN.

“There is no reason why we should be asking everyone to cut spending […] but not ask that EU operating spending be cut too,” Bardella told a public hearing in front of a series of entrepreneurs and business associations.

The EU budget, standing at €189.4 billion for 2024 and topping over €1 trillion over the 2021-2027 period, is targeted to several priority policy issues, including support for Ukraine, immigration and border control, and humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, roughly two thirds of it are allocated to the bloc’s cohesion policy and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

France’s cash contribution to Brussels is the second largest in the EU, amounting to approximately 18.5%.

A €2 to €3 billion cut, which Bardella claims he would wish to see through this summer if he becomes prime minister, would amount to 10-15% of the country’s €21.6 billion contribution to the EU in 2024.

“We’re net contributors,” he said. “The less we give to the EU, the more we can forward money to the real French economy”. However, he vowed to “guarantee” the CAP budget, of which France is the largest beneficiary.

French markets wobble as EU Commission launches deficit procedure

France’s financial markets lost further ground on Wednesday (19 June) after the European Commission announced it intends to open an excessive deficit procedure (EDP) over the national budget, exacerbating fears that the ongoing political reshuffling may compound the country’s economic headwinds.

‘Reminds me of Brexit’

Reneging on already enshrined budgetary promises, however, is nearly impossible in practice.

“Bardella’s statement reminds me of Brexit and the long and false claims made by those calling for a UK exit,” said Siegfried Mureşan, European Parliament’s general rapporteur for the 2024 EU budget.

The seven-year budget is adopted by both the Parliament and the bloc’s 27 member states by a unanimous vote: “Absolutely no change can be made before 2027,” he told Euractiv.

The 2024 budget, adopted last November, cannot be amended either, Mureşan warned: “There is no way for Bardella to amend it, and France has a legal obligation to pay its share”.

Bardella has often complained EU money was ill-spent, with cash flowing to “finance Gaza’s water distribution network” – a dubious claim that fails to point out that the €800 million funds the EU has dedicated to emergency aid to Gaza since the 7 October Hamas terrorist attacks were part of its overall humanitarian aid policy.

Such aid is geared towards critical infrastructure, including water, food, health, and emergency sheltering.

Bardella also claims that he refutes seeing EU cash sent to “infrastructure projects in Turkey, in countries far removed from our [European] civilisation, which sometimes even use this money to blackmail us”.

Turkey has been a critical partner to the EU in limiting the arrival of irregular migrants on European soil in exchange for financial support, and has often made threats that it would open its borders if the EU failed to send over more public funding.

Read more with Euractiv

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EU should have mirrored China’s green tech policy, former French and Irish ministers say

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