Financial issues in the Eurozone following the UK’s projected departure emerged as a real stumbling block during a meeting in Brussels on February 23.
The leaders of Germany and France noted Friday that post-Brexit funding cuts to EU programs aimed to counter illegal immigration and terrorism should by no means occur, since these two spheres are much prioritized on the global agenda.
As German Chancellor Angel Merkel arrived for the informal discussions on Friday, she made it clear that it was important not to cut financial support to operations that had proved effective in tackling issues such as terrorism in the Sahel region of north and west Africa.
“We are all contributing financially to the anti-radicalization military operations in this region and that is starting to pay dividends,” she said. “We also need to work together… with Libya to combat illegal migration.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrived alongside Merkel, reiterated her message, adding that France was also “committed” in the fight to “eradicate terrorism” and the “trafficking of humans” in Africa.
In the meantime, other wealthy member states have argued that a smaller EU after Britain leaves the bloc would mean a smaller budget to operate. Namely, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel stressed that his country was not willing to compensate for the lost EU funds, saying Europe needed to be “more efficient” in distributing money and that some expenses can possibly be changed.
Poorer member states from eastern and southern Europe have voiced their unhappiness with the possibility of cuts to EU programs’ funding. For instance, Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas said it was “not an option” to compromise for the EU’s audacious ambitions. “We would like to see a stronger, safer and more united European Union,” he said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU needed to have “new priorities and policies.” He added that if an agreement could not be reached to reduce funding for certain programs, “we will have to pay more.”
Friday’s talks are also expected to center around structural issues in the bloc, namely appointing the successor to the EU Commission president and the upcoming elections to the European Parliament.
Brexit debate between London and Brussels kicked off in June and are due to be completed by the end of March 2019.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was among the top priority issues discussed during the first phase of negotiations, along with the rights of EU citizens residing in the United Kingdom and UK citizens staying in the EU zone.
This March the second round of Brexit talks are expected, as was decided in mid-December.
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