Mr Oettinger wants a bigger EU budget – despite Britain’s impending exit

Guenther Oettinger says the EU’s next budget, which will span between 2021 and 2027, should be increased from one percent of EU gross national income to between 1.1 and 1.2 percent.

The current budget is between £124-133billion (€140-150billion) but the EU is facing a £11.5billion blackhole once Britain leaves.

European Commission Budget Commissioner Mr Oettinger has been tasked with drawing up the bloc’s next six-year budget minus the hefty contributions made by the UK.

In a statement, the European Commission said: “The budget is vital at a time when Europe is in the midst of a fundamental debate on how the Union should evolve in the years to come.

“We now have an opportunity to choose the Europe we want and to decide on a budget that helps us build it.”

However, the size of the next budget is ultimately up to EU member states which means Mr Oettinger could not offer an exact figure.

The Commission offered several options for EU leaders to discuss later this month before the EU executive presents a final proposal on May 2. 

And the Commission wants an agreement from EU governments on the budget by May 2019 – two months after Brexit.

Following French demands for the creation of a eurozone budget, the Commission said the overall EU budget should dedicate at least €25billion for the eurozone.

Mr Oettinger made the announcement alongside European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker

This would be used to pay for national structural reforms and help countries hoping to join the single currency area to bring their economies closer to the currency bloc.

This is a compromise between the more ambitious position of France and the German view that there should be no special eurozone budget at all.

The Commission also laid out plans to make member states’ access to EU funds conditional on respect for the bloc’s democratic values following tensions with Poland over the rule of law.

While the EU’s joint budget only represents about one percent of the bloc’s total economic output, the funds kept for infrastructure and other uses are especially valued by poorer, ex-communist nations like Poland.

But the Commission is concerned about what it sees as an erosion of democratic checks and balances – especially reforms of the judiciary and media – in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere.

The Commission said in a statement: ”It is the moment to consider how the link between EU funding and the respect for the EU’s fundamental values can be strengthened.”

Austria’s finance chief has insisted funding for the bloc’s flagship projects should be cut instead of expecting remaining member states to make up the difference, as chinks in the EU’s united front appear.

The EU27 have repeatedly followed the bloc’s lead as Brexit negotiations continue, but the issue of the budget shortfall once Britain leaves has highlighted division. 

Gernot Blümel, Austria’s finance chief, said: “It can not be that the EU is smaller and that the budget is greater.”

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