The negotiations on the multiannual financial framework in the European Council: The Franco-German dyad as an initiator of compromise?

The multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 (MFF) will be for the first time on the agenda of the Heads of State and Government at the European Council of 28-29 June 2012. As the negotiations thus enter into the decisive phase, the question arises what capability the Franco-German dyad currently has to act as a “motor of integration”. In order to answer this question, three aspects seem to be of particular importance.

First, the traditional role of the Franco-German cooperation in earlier negotiations on the multiannual financial framework. It seems obvious that reaching consensus on the MFF has become more difficult after last decade’s enlargement of the European Union. It is therefore worth looking at the agreement on the current financial framework which was achieved only after the Franco-German reconciliation of interests made by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder at the Blaesheim meetings in March and June 2005. The French priority to codify the agricultural compromise of 2002 and the German demand for the integration of the new member states into the MFF clearly pre-structured the later outcome of the negotiations in the European Council.

Second, the victory of Francois Hollande in the French presidential elections will most likely lead to an adjustment of the French negotiating position. Under his predecessor, Sarkozy’s interests were mainly focussed on the fixation of the overall EU spending limit, the continuation of the level of direct payments from the European agricultural budget and the abolition of various rebates that exist for Britain and a number of other net contributors. Sarkozy gave no special attention to the European regional policy and that is what is likely to change with Hollande. Given that 21 of the 22 French regions have Socialist governments Hollande can hardly repulse their demands for higher funding from the EU regional funds. This could facilitate a rapprochement with the German position, which has strong interests in structural investments, especially because of the eastern German states.

And thirdly, the indispensability of the Franco-German compromise. In the context of an extremely complex negotiation situation it must not be overlooked that an agreement between the two countries is of utmost importance even for a compromise between the EU net payers. This will be quite difficult to achieve in the current negotiations, mainly because of the Nordic countries that are pushing for a reallocation of budget resources from the agricultural policy towards research, education and innovation. Moreover, France and Germany traditionally have the role to alleviate the centrifugal dynamics between the divergent “integration cultures” in the Mediterranean, Northern and Central-Eastern European regions which have certainly increased not only because of the Euro crisis.

To sum up, the need for a Franco-German compromise appears to be even larger in the current situation than in 2005, while the balance of interests seems to be much more difficult to achieve due to a smaller overlap of respective national preferences.

 

Robert Kaiser

About Robert Kaiser

Robert Kaiser is Acting Chair of Political Science at the University of Siegen, Germany. He holds a doctoral degree from the University of Duesseldorf and a post-doctoral degree (Habilitation) from the University of Munich. His research is focused on comparative politics, innovation and industrial policies as well as on processes of Europeanization. Recent publications include ‘Le budget européen à l‘heure de la crise. Positions allemandes relatives au CFP 2014-2020, Note du Cerfa 89, Institut français des relations internationales, Paris, Octobre 2011´, A paradigm shift in European R&D policy? The EU Budget Review and the economic crisis´, Science and Public Policy, 2010, 37, 4, 253-65 (with H. Prange-Gstöhl)