PM in Brussels: “We have to be ambitious, but we also have to be realistic”

Sanna Marin concedes that the various sides in the EU budget debate are quite far apart, but she's hopeful a resolution can be found over the weekend.

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Finnish PM Sanna Marin (SDP) talks to reporters in Brussels, 20th February 2020 / Credit: European Council Newsroom

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has set out her opening gambit in Brussels, ahead of multi-year budget talks that are likely to be contentious.

Speaking to reporters before the start of formal talks with the 26 other EU national leaders, Marin said that they “have to be ambitions, but we also have to be realistic.”

The European Union has to adjust its budget to take account the departure of the UK, which leaves a hole in future finances.

Richer countries, which give more to the EU’s budget than they get back, want to keep any budget increase to a minimum; while 15 countries which broadly get more money, especially aid, than they contribute to the EU want to make sure their funding programmes don’t get cut.

The President of the European Council, Belgian politician Charles Michel, has made a budget proposal that falls somewhere between the two sides but the Finnish government thinks that’s still too much of an increase.

“I think the Charles Michel proposal has gone to the wrong direction. Finland thinks the overall level is a bit too high, we would like to have it more moderate” says Marin, adding that Finland is keen to make sure rural development funds are renewed in a way to help agriculture become more climate-sustainable.

Prime Minister Marin also hit out saying she was “very disappointed” that Michel had “watered down” rule of law provisions. Earlier this week Finland’s Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen told News Now Finland that “we cannot allow the situation to take place where some countries are violating our values, while benefiting from our budget” – she was talking mainly about Poland and Hungary who have been repeatedly warned by the European Union about political interference in courts, and with freedom of the press.

“We are just starting the negotiations and my analysis is that the member states are still quite far away from each other. So we shall see if we finish this week, or we will have to continue later on. But of course we hope that we will find an agreement in the upcoming days” says Sanna Marin.

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