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Anförande av Magdalena Andersson vid högnivåkonferensen ”EU Budget Focused on Results”
Bryssel, 27 september 2016
Det talade ordet gäller.
I wish to thank Kristalina Georgieva – for the invitation and the possibility to speak today.
The EU-budget in general
Let me start by two remarks on the EU-budget in general.
Firstly, the European Union and our Member States face a number of challenges. When talking about the EU-budget, I think it is important to start thinking about which ones ought to be addressed by the EU-budget and which ones shouldn't.
For some challenges EU-institutions and bodies are best suited to address common cross-border challenges, whereas for others national authorities are far better at identifying local challenges, as well as shaping and executing policies at local level. Striking the right balance between EU and national responsibilities is therefore key.
One of the most urgent challenges we are facing is the low growth in our union. This is however not a challenge that to any larger extent either can or should be solved by the EU-budget. Instead this calls for national structural reforms that can permanently increase potential growth in the Member States.
The problem today is that too much of the EU-budget is used to conserve economic structures and hamper structural change. In order to change this we ought to reduce the CAP and parts of cohesion policy considerably in the medium term.
At the same time, there are areas of genuine common interest that are more important than ever before.
We need to refocus the spending profile in order to better address common challenges such as security and external relations, for example finding sustainable solutions to the root causes of irregular migration.
So, we need national structural reform to increase growth potential. The EU-budget should to a larger extent focus on genuinely common problems rather than conserve old economic structures. Because, in the long run public spending can never substitute structural reform.
Secondly, in all Member States we are working hard to have control over our national budgets. We have to make difficult choices to prioritize between important areas when something needs extra spending. Or between lobbyists that want new tax-cuts.
Furthermore, many Member States have spent the last years making incredibly difficult decisions consolidating their budgets.
From this perspective I believe it is more important than ever that the EU-budget is managed in a budget-restrictive way. No trying to go around the rules through new flexibility or innovative financing schemes, instead true reprioritization when new challenges turn up.
It is more important than ever that the European level acts as a role-model when it comes to budget discipline.
Enough of the general remarks.
The MFF review
Regarding the MFF review, the focus on migration, growth and external policy in the Commission's proposal is well balanced given current challenges.
But as I said, it is absolutely crucial that an agreement respects the expenditure ceilings of the current MFF. Financing of new priorities through a depletion of margins, increased budget flexibility and/or new flexibility mechanisms is not obviously in line with this - which is deeply concerning and clearly comes with risks for increased national contributions.
A key to achieve sustainable financial development is re-prioritisation. Increased expenditure for one purpose should be off-set by correspondingly lower expenditure in other areas. This principle is transparent, simple and key to sustainable development of public finances.
As for Sweden, we will be prepared to make sacrifices in our areas of priority in order make both ends meet, should this be required. Naturally we expect equally constructive attitudes from all Member States.
The next MFF
Moving on to the next MFF. I believe we should continue to build on the progress made back in 2013. That means being restrictive on the level of spending and set priorities based on European added value.
Fair burden sharing has been a guiding principle for as long as Sweden has been a member of the EU and should continue to be so. A system of reductions is necessary to achieve this objective. This will be equally valid in the next MFF.
When we shape the next MFF we have to base our analysis and reach an agreement with a different union in mind. The outcome of the UK referendum will sadly mean that the EU for the first time will lose a member state.
Brexit will mean the loss of an important net contributor. Accordingly we need to adjust the budgetary ambitions of the union downwards in order to avoid increases in Member States contributions to the EU-budget. So, when UK leaves, the EU-budget has to shrink accordingly.
That a result of Brexit would be that other net contributors with an EU-skeptical opinion would need to pay even more to the EU-budget – well that is simply unthinkable.
This is particularly relevant for my country. Last year we received more than 163 000 asylum seekers to Sweden – and we are a ten million people country. That is more asylum seekers per capita than any OECD-country has received in modern times. This will for a long time affect our country and our public finances.
The support we have seen from the European Union has been varied, and particularly some countries have been reluctant to even implement decisions we have taken together. The lack of solidarity shown by certain Member States during the migration crisis does not correspond with the solidarity that the big net contributors – and their tax-payers - show regarding the EU-budget.
To ask us to show even more solidarity as a net contributor than we do today would be, to say the least, difficult to explain to the Swedish public.
Let me instead quote President Juncker's State of the Union speech two weeks ago.
"When it comes to managing the refugee crisis, we have started to see solidarity. I am convinced much more solidarity is needed. But I also know that solidarity must be given voluntarily. It must come from the heart. It cannot be forced."
End of quote.
I agree – and I presume the same is valid for net contributions to the EU-budget. Solidarity within the EU has to be a priority for all Member States, not just a few. This can not be a club where some only gives and others only receive. It has to be mutual. Because, as in all relationships – it takes two to tango.