We had a very constructive discussion on the broader issue of the European budget and on the specific issue of the GNI corrections. On the broader topic there is clearly support from the Council and it was reflected in conclusions for a timely advancement and conclusions of the negotiations on the 2014 Amending Budgets and the 2015 Draft Budget.
Behind these technicalities stands a very important objective and it is to get our citizens' budget working for them. Because what our budget is, this is a booster of investments for our businesses and communities in Europe. As you know very well we are at the point when it is absolutely crucial to support competitiveness, growth, jobs, social fairness and also a strong Europe in the world. And we can only do this with resources provided so we can implement our programmes.
The topic however that took most of the time during the Council discussion was related to the GNI corrections.
As we all know, this topic has been occupying minds – and headlines. And I fully understand that. Because this year, we have had a very, unusually, large size correction, and it impacted some of our Member States - like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Malta, Cyprus - more than others.
Just to give you a sense as to how unusual this correction is. Last year the total correction or adjustment was 360 million euros. This year it is 9.5 billion euros. The closest we come to this large a size of correction was in year 2007 when it was 3.8 billion euros, in other words 2 ½ times less than what we have this year.
And because in previous years corrections have been relatively small, they really stayed under the radar screen of politicians in the Member States, and under the radar screen I admit for us in the Commission. And the result of this was that when we got a big correction, then with a very short time line to pay that has created pressure on national treasuries.
So the question is what to do about it? I am very pleased to report that the Italian Presidency has done an excellent job to bring the views of Member States and to invite the Commission so we can start thinking about addressing this issue systemically. Not only for this year, of course we have to address it for this year, but to address it systemically.
And what I can report to you is that the Commission is now asked to come up with the proposal that would do four things:
One, it would define exceptional circumstances – when is it that we are way above the average thresholds of corrections
Two, to propose a staged payment when we have these exceptional circumstances so Member States can pay their contributions – those that have to pay more – and then of course we would do our job which is to pay those who have to be compensated as a result of these adjustments.
Three, as the Minister said, to do it in a fair manner. In other words, when we have unusual adjustments then we apply to all Member States, we give all Member States equal treatment, and in this particular case we also look very carefully at how this staged process would affect each and every one of our Member States to be sure that we provide fair treatment.
Four, we are taking on board the necessity to draw lessons from this case for the future. And that means not only to put the legislative proposal that I have described – with a very very high level of exceptionality – but also to look at timing of deliver of information, how this information can be made more easily accessible, how to encourage more transparency when it comes to data related to GNI. But doing so being mindful of the necessity of the independence of our statistical offices and more broadly to protect the financial viability and stability of the European Union.
So after this press conference my team and I go back to work, and we will come with a proposal to Council and the other European Institutions as soon as the Commission is satisfied with this proposal and is able to support it.