Auteur: | By Lucia Kubosova
Dutch Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende has called for a reform of the EU budget, particularly its continuing practice of "rivers of subsidy flowing out of Brussels" to farmers and regions in rich member states.
In a comment in today's (20 July) Guardian, Mr Balkenende argues that European citizens are aware of what flows in and out of the bloc's common coffers, which is also a part of the reason why their attitudes to the EU have soured over the past years.
Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution on 1 June, voicing an even stronger disapproval of the document than their French counterparts three days before.
One of the topics featuring in the pre-referendum campaign was the Dutch contribution to the EU budget, the highest per head in the Union.
And the Dutch leader makes it clear in his comment, that "In this period of slow growth, it would be irresponsible to increase the total budget. There is a better solution: reforming the existing budget to prepare for the future".
"Do we want an EU that focuses primarily on consolidation of vested interests, or one that pursues reform and displays solidarity with the less prosperous member states and the world around it?", Mr Balkenende asks in his article.
"European agriculture is of great importance, and we must not overlook farmers and their families. But the current system, with rivers of subsidy flowing out of Brussels, cannot last until late in the 21st century."
"And is it fair for Brussels to spend so much of its limited resources on regions in rich member states? Wouldn't that money be put to better use in the poor regions of the less prosperous new member states?" he writes.
Answering positively to the question, Mr Balkenende also suggested there is a need to "develop a new financial system offering greater scope for research, innovation, international environmental policy and the fight against transnational crime".
The Dutch plea for EU reform is a strong voice in support of the current EU presidency and its leader Tony Blair.
The Netherlands was also one of the five countries that rejected the final compromise on the 2007-2013 budget, tabled by the previous Luxembourg EU presidency during the bitter June summit.
But several other countries doubt London's capability to push forward a new budgetary deal by the end of the year.
And France, the biggest net recipient of the EU's farm subsidies, has so far rejected any calls for a more substantial overhaul of the bloc's agriculture spending policy, accounting for around 40% of the common budget but only 1.6% of output.
French President Jacques Chirac said in his annual Bastille Day speech last week that he was not prepared to make the "least concession" on the issue, while foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (18 July) that the idea of reform before 2014 was "not serious".