The verdict of MEPs on the summit was largely negative across all the political groups.
Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, reported on the summit to a meeting of the conference of political group leaders on Tuesday (27 November), that was open to all MEPs. The two sought to explain what had happened, knowing that the Parliament’s endorsement is needed for whatever deal might emerge in the coming weeks or months. (The European Parliament can approve or reject the multiannual financial framework deal in its entirety, though it does not have the right to make changes.)
Alain Lamassoure, a centre-right French MEP who heads the Parliament’s budgets committee, said: “At the time of the 12 [member states], we said that we had 11 leaders talking about Europe and [British Prime Minister] Mrs Thatcher talking about her money. Today, we have 27 all talking about money, money, money.”
Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian MEP who leads the centre-left Socialists and Democrats group, said that this had been “a Council where everything went wrong, where nationalism and egoism prevailed”.
“It was one of the worst performances we have seen, where those in charge of Europe did the least for Europe,” he said. “Maybe our predecessors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, but we do not.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe group, said that his main worry was that the 2014-20 budget would be sprinkled with concessions to particular member states – “a little rebate here and a new subsidy to another country” – in order to buy their backing. He warned against using the EU budget to reduce fiscal deficits in member states and underlined the importance of reforming the EU’s own resources system. MEPs have said repeatedly that there needs to be movement on a financial-transactions tax if they are to approve the long-term budget.
Van Rompuy used the debate to call on the member states to strike the right balance between fiscal restraint and support for growth. “You cannot conclude a growth pact in June and go on to have a budget within a few months that does the opposite of that,” he said. “I shall stand by and defend this balance.”
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Barroso lauded the “many heads of state or government” who had taken a “constructive position”, but he then accused others of distortion and greed, and of attacking the EU institutions. “If there was one aspect that I really did not like during this European Council it was the very active spinning and bashing of some [member states] in the corridors against the European institutions,” he said in a barely veiled attack on the British. He said he was “greatly saddened” to see that the positions of “some capitals” were “not about substance but about money”.