PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) has raised the stakes in EU budget negotiations by threatening to veto the union's 2014-2020 spending agreement if Denmark doesn’t get the one billion kroner rebate it has already budgeted into its own national spending plans.
“We must have our EU rebate and if we don’t get it, then we have to veto the budget. It’s really quite simple,” Thorning-Schmidt said during a parliamentary EU committee meeting yesterday.
Thorning-Schmidt’s threat has presented another obstacle for Herman van Rompuy and the Cypriot EU presidency, which will require the consent of all 27 EU member states during next week’s budget negotiations.
And the news that Thorning-Schmidt is following in the footsteps of David Cameron, who threatened to veto the budget unless fellow EU leaders agreed to curb spending, has generally been well received by other Danish lawmakers.
“It’s a fresh viewpoint and really positive,” Nicolaj Villumsen, spokesperson for euro-sceptic Ennhedslisten told Politiken newspaper. “The deciding component in politics and in war is to have some ammunition and it’s great that the government finally has some. It’s interesting that they actually mean it and they have our full backing.”
That sentiment was echoed by Liberal Alliance and Dansk Folkeparti. Both parties oppose the government, but are pleased that Thorning-Schmidt put her foot down during a time when the EU is increasing its spending while asking member states to cut back.
“When she chooses to say it like this it’s likely because she feels we will get the rebate, so I think it would become her to step forward and reveal whether she has a secret agreement with other EU members,” Kristian Thulesen Dahl, head of the euro-sceptic Dansk Folkeparti, told Politiken. “But either way, we will support her in vetoing if we don’t get the rebate.”
But while Venstre and Konservative, also in the opposition, agreed that Denmark should get its rebate, they disagreed with Thorning-Schmidt's tactics, calling the threat a “bombastic” and premature move that could weaken other Danish interests.
“We risk cornering ourselves at such an early juncture in the budget negotiations and that doesn’t leave much political wiggle room for the other Danish causes,” Konservative spokesperson Lene Espersen told Politiken. “There is no need for it. We are nowhere near making a decision on the EU budget, but now the focus will be on our rebate and the EU could say that’s what Denmark gets and nothing else.”
Receiving the rebate has become imperative for the government after it calculated it into the funding for its 2020 economic plan. The gamble is a considerable one and could end up backfiring, according to Marlene Wind, a University of Copenhagen EU specialist.
“It’s not normal for Denmark to engage in such high stakes games. We usually assume a position from which we safely can give ground,” Wind told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “She will be humiliated if she doesn't succeed.”
Denmark is one of EU’s biggest contributors per capita, handing over 18.2 billion kroner in 2011, while at the same time receiving 11 billion kroner in payments from Brussels. Thorning-Schmidt would now like to receive the same kind of rebates granted other major contributors. Sweden received a nearly four million kroner rebate as recently as 2011.
The European Commission is projecting that the 2014-2020 budget will be in the neighbourhood of 7.5 trillion kroner.