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Brussels, 25 April 2012

Budget/MFF: Reply of President Barroso to a question from a journalist

Question of a journalist: How do you explain to taxpayers in a country like Britain that, because of this budget increase, the British treasury will have to find over a billion euros extra next year to give to you what it is cutting back on public services in Britain?

José Manuel Durão Barroso: First of all, I cannot agree with the assumption in your question. You say "given to us", "given to me". It is not to me. It is to Europe, to the regions of Europe, to the workers of Europe, to the United Kingdom.

The example that President Schulz brought today about ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is quite impressive. Do you know who is asking the increase of expenditure in ITER? Namely the net contributors, namely the United Kingdom. The question I put to you, if I may, is does the public in the UK know that the British government is arguing for the increase in expenditure like ITER? Do you believe this project is the first priority for the poorest regions of Europe? So, the point is very important to make, because there is sometimes a complete contradiction between the positions that the governments take publicly, some governments saying "we want to reduce the budget", and afterwards they are the first to ask for increase of the budget in the projects that are of course for their direct interest.

And this is the real issue that we have to address in Europe, because yesterday I received the Prime Minister of Slovakia. I can tell that he came with a different message from the one I received from London. He said "Look we have now made these payments. If the European budget does not cover these payments as you have promised us, our deficit will increase. It will be a much more difficult situation".

So, let's not put this as a question of fight between the European institutions and the governments, because it is not true and my appeal to all governments of Europe is to tell the truth. What happens is that there are some differences also inside Europe, some priorities. We have a legal obligation, and by the way the Council as well, to respect all the commitments made.

What we have been proposing today (and afterwards Commissioner Lewandowski will explain that much better than me) remains inside the commitments that were approved by the United Kingdom and I am singling now the UK only because you have mentioned it, but I could say the same for several other countries and governments. This is the reality. The governments of Europe approved the budget. They said that these are the commitments and now we have an obligation that is a result of the Treaty to put the financial means at disposition of the governments or the private entities, sometimes it is farmers, sometimes it is regions. For instance, I received many requests from the UK regional authorities and I can tell you now from my experience of 8 years that the countries that are the first to come to the Commission to ask the Commission to pay on time are usually the net contributors, probably because they are generally speaking more developed in their administrative capacity. They are the first and if there is a delay in any payment they are the first to say "what happened, why is the Commission not paying our bills".

So this is not money for Brussels. The administrative expenditure, as I have explained, is minor compared to the investment in the European budget. And in administrative matters, we have been making very important, serious efforts in line with the efforts made by the most of our Member States. I very much understand the concerns expressed by your question, but I don't agree with the assumption that this money is money for Brussels or for Strasbourg. It is money back to the Member States and it makes sense in many areas to spend it at European level, not for ideological reasons, but for efficiency reasons.

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