The Prime Minister's speech to the conference on the MFF, Brussels on 22 March 2012

Check against delivery

President Schulz, President Barroso distinguished Members of the European Parliament, Members of National Parliaments, Ministers and Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the Danish EU Presidency, I would like to extend my thanks to The European Parliament for hosting today’s event and for the close cooperation with both the European Parliament and the Commission leading up to today’s conference.

I am also delighted to see so many representatives from National Parliaments present here today. I know from first hand experience how important it is to work closely with National Parliaments in all areas of EU policy.

As Presidency I can assure you we will do our utmost to work closely together with all the stakeholders present here today as we take the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework forward.

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There is no denying that the negotiations will takes place at a time where Europe faces serious challenges.

During the last years we have taken bold and important decisions at European as well as national level to curb the sovereign debt crisis. We have come a long way, but Member States’ public finances are still under pressure and budgetary consolidation will remain an important challenge in the years ahead of us. We have seen that it only takes a few years to lose economic credibility, but it takes decades to regain it.

At the same time we are witnessing slow growth and increased unemployment – not least for our young people.

Increased competition from emerging economies and demography only add to our challenges. It is therefore of utmost importance that we speed up growth and jobs creation in Europe.

There are no easy answers or quick fixes. But I genuinely believe that the next Multiannual Financial Framework provides us with a golden opportunity to reform the budget in a way that is better aligned with the needs of the future and that can make a difference for growth and jobs in Europe. We only get the opportunity to reform the EU budget every seventh year, so it is crucial that we get it right.

The multiannual budget negotiation is also a chance for us as policy-makers to demonstrate that the EU can deliver solutions to difficult problems – in spite of the economic crisis.

I have no illusions that these negotiations will be easy. Much is at stake. Huge sums of money are involved. And all sides will come to the table with their particular interests.

But this just makes it even more important that we all show the political will and courage to engage in a constructive dialogue.

Let me be clear. A final agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework is not around the corner. It has been clear for a while that there will be no final agreement during the Danish Presidency. But I can assure you that we will do everything we can to bring the negotiations forward during the Danish Presidency.

More specifically our aim is to develop a basis for the final stage of negotiations, to be discussed at the European Council in June 2012. This should pave the way for a final agreement by the end of the year.

The Danish Presidency works hard within the mandate given to Denmark by the European Council in December 2011.

To fulfil our mandate, we have already kick-started discussions at ministers’ level. Our aim is to narrow gaps between delegations’ positions on key issues in order to gradually reconcile them. This is necessary if we are to meet the ambitious time frame of finalising an agreement by the end of 2012. Not least because an agreement in the European Council is a precondition for moving to the formal inter-institutional negotiations that will finalise the next Multiannual Financial Framework.

But already now the Danish Presidency engages in close and regular contacts with both the European Parliament and the Commission at all levels. Close dialogue between the institutions throughout the process is vital.

I believe that today’s high level conference complements the ongoing dialogue by giving the key actors involved in the negotiations an opportunity to share their views in an open and constructive way.

I would like to express my particular appreciation to members of the national parliaments for being present today. I believe that your inputs – based on a thorough knowledge of the economy and political realities in your particular Member State – will be of great relevance.

Hopefully, the debates today can give us all a better understanding of each others’ positions and help paving the way for the negotiations between the institutions in the second half of 2012.

The question at the heart of our discussion today is: “What should the EU budget for the future look like”?

I am sure there are many views in this room. Let me take the opportunity to share some of my views on the principles that should guide our further work:

Firstly, we must ensure that the EU-budget supports the growth and jobs-agenda better than today. This requires political courage to redeploy funds to the policies that can improve Europe’s productivity and competitiveness. For example, I believe that boosting our research and innovation efforts through the EU-budget is crucial for our competitiveness in the world economy.

Secondly, we also need a greener EU-budget where the importance of climate change and the environment are reflected in all relevant spending programmes. This should of course be done in a way that supports the growth and jobs agenda.

Thirdly, solidarity must be at the heart of the EU budget. We should focus the relevant resources on the development of the least prosperous Member States and regions in the EU.

Fourthly, in a time of scarce resources we need to think hard about how the EU budget can provide real added value and maximum effect for each euro spent. We need to foster a culture of performance and evaluation where bench marking and indicators are a natural part of the toolkit in all spending programmes. And we must have the courage to close or downscale programmes that do not deliver tangible results.

We should also step up efforts to secure sound and more efficient financial management. We must show citizens that money spent at the EU-level are money well spent. In this context, we also need to simplify procedures and rules. Bureaucracy should never be a hindrance for ensuring efficient policies that deliver as much value per euro spent as possible.

Finally, the financing of the future EU-budget must be transparent and fair. And let me be clear. Fairness in my view does not mean “juste retour thinking” where each Member State is obsessed by its own net position. Fairness simply means that Member States with equal levels of wealth also pay roughly the same into the budget. Solidarity is as an important principle of the EU budget, and of course the more prosperous countries should pay more into the budget than the less prosperous. In the end, that principle will work to the benefit of all of us.

I believe these principles are key elements if we are to ensure a future EU-budget which will underpin our efforts to solve the challenges Europe faces. But these are only my views and I can assure that the Danish Presidency in the ongoing work will take all views into account so that we will end of with a European budget that works to the benefit of all of us.

Today’s conference will be an opportunity for us and for you – the key stakeholders – to engage in discussions on what you see as the most important principles which should guide the future EU-budget.

I do however also hope that today’s sessions on the new own resources and the expenditure side of the Multiannual Financial Framework will entail more specific discussions and concrete proposals on how to ensure an EU-budget that will help prepare Europe for the future.

As Presidency we will be listening very carefully to the debates. They will constitute crucial input to the Presidency’s continued work on the Multiannual Financial Framework.

Thank you for your attention!

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