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France may face "Thatcher moment" on EU budget
Date 27/10/2010 12:27  Author webmaster  Hits 1069  Language Global
27 OCT 2010

By Yves Clarisse

(Reuters) - Nearly three decades after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously told Europe "I want my money back," President Nicolas Sarkozy faces a similar financial predicament as France crawls, cash-strapped, out of recession.

The European Union's budget, the money the 27 countries pool to fund EU policies and institutions, could take a significant hit now and for years to come as a result.

Unlike the Iron Lady, Sarkozy is probably not set to demand a chunky rebate on his country's contribution to the EU central coffers. But he is under intense pressure to find ways to save money.

"It is an unacceptable position for us in the Thatcher-like sense of the term," said a high-ranking French diplomat. "It is not about playing Madame Thatcher but we simply cannot keep paying so much."

Negotiations have yet to start, but the European Commission set the ball rolling with proposals this month on the long-term requirements of the EU budget, covering the seven and perhaps 10 years from the end of 2013.

Last time around in 2004-5, six big net contributors to the common budget -- Germany, Britain, France, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands -- signed a joint letter demanding that EU spending be capped at 1 percent of the bloc's economic output.

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