Finland to propose cap on EU membership fees
Finland is trying to press for a ceiling for the EU’s net membership fees that would apply to all member-states. In addition, Finland suggests that the EU budget should be agreed upon according to the five-year terms of the European Commission and Parliament. At present the financial frameworks are agreed for seven years.
These new guidelines are included in a Report on Finland’s EU Policy submitted by the Government yesterday - Wednesday.
The report discusses the impact of EU membership on Finland, sets out basic guidelines and key objectives for Finland’s EU policy, considers ways to develop the exercise of influence in the EU, and analyses the development of the European Union.
The report does not determine the scope of the proposed ceiling.
”We have to allow for some negotiation”, said Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) at a press conference arranged after the governmental session on Wednesday.
In proportion, the largest net contributor is Holland, paying some 0.5 per cent of its gross national product. In any case, the proposed ceiling on membership fees would be lower than that.
Even Finland is a net contributor to the European Union, paying 0.1 per cent of GNP to the Union - in other words EUR 33 per every Finnish citizen.
The Report on Finland’s EU Policy also included some other new guidelines.
Finland suggests that the member-states could make a decision by themselves on whether or not they want to declare the entire country or a part of it as ”a GMO-free region”.
According to Vanhanen, farmers are entitled to the production of food that is free of genetic engineering, while consumers also have the right to buy GMO-free products.
”This is clearly a new opening. At present such decision-making is not possible under the Union’s current legislation. I am fairly sure that if we had an opportunity, it would be pretty easy to reach a decision that Finland would become such a GMO-free zone”, Vanhanen noted.
In addition, Finland would like to turn the EU’s regional and structural subsidies into conditional ones. In order to be qualified for such grants the member-state in question should have to commit itself to ”sound economic policy”.
Some 80 per cent of the budget of the European Union is allocated to various agricultural, regional, and structural subsidies.
Furthermore, Finland is in favour of the EU membership of Norway, Iceland, Turkey, and the West Balkan Countries.
In addition, the report presents certain objectives for the 2020s, the aim being that in ten years they would also be included in the EU guidelines and decision-making procedures.
Matti Vanhanen regarded all objectives as realistic, while admitting that ”all financial changes are always extremely difficult”.
Finland’s influencing strategies are outlined on a general level - anticipation, prioritization, cooperation, alliances - but the consideration of practical ways to influence within the EU is to be submitted to a separate task force.
The previous comprehensive Government Report on Finland’s EU Policy was submitted 14 years ago - in February 1995, when Finland had just joined the European Union.
Since then the European Union has changed considerably, with 12 new members and the introduction of the euro.
PM Matti Vanhanen said on Wednesday that because the Treaty of Lisbon could now finally come into effect in 2009, another institutional report of this kind will not be required until 20 or so years from now.
Moreover, the current report was submitted at the right time, in view of the upcoming EU elections in June 2009, Vanhanen noted. He hopes the report will generate discussion in the run-up to the June poll.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish net contribution to European Union set new record last year (12.4.2006)
Finland is net payer to European Union (25.9.2007)
Finnish Government press release 8.4.2009: Government Report on Finland´s EU Policy to be submitted to Parliament