FinancialGuy Writes!

Financialguy found himself interviewing Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski and Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso this morning. I had only gone to listen rather than to ask, so I fear that the opportunity was rather wasted by my lack of preparation.

Wasted opportunities aside, there were some interesting points at this CoR event.

What is clear to me is that the balance of power in Brussels – the landscape – is changing. This change is behind the scenes a little for now, and is happening by design, but it is happening.

That change is the extent to which ‘regions’ are increasing in influence and power. Over the last few months, I have attended a number of events and it is clear to me that regional policy makers are trying their best to flex their muscles and wield a larger amount of influence. They seem to be picking their battles carefully (energy, climate change and budget seem the most obvious to me) and gradually moving their lines of influence further forwards.

This was confirmed tacitly by Commissioner Lewandowski to me this morning. He told me, “94% of the total EU budget is spent in Member States. That means it is being spent locally”. He described this year as having a “hot budgeting season” which was followed by describing the current economic climate as an “automatic transfer of austerity from Member States to the EU”. Times are not good then.

CoR President Mercedes Bresso backed the Commissioner up by making a claim for “new income sources” for the EU. She listed a number of potential ideas including Eurobonds / EU Project Bonds and the (potentially misguided and potentially dead) financial transactions tax.

The Commissioner feels that this lack of extra income leads itself to a lack of flexibility in the EU. “A modern budget should be more responsive to unforseen events whilst keeping the same level of predictability for implementing multiannual programmes and investments.”

In other words, the EU needs more money for unknown unknowns…

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