Q. – The European Budget Commissioner recently declared himself in favour of a review of the British rebate. His idea would be to reconsider the reduction in Britain’s contribution to the Community budget granted in 1984. Does France agree with this?
THE MINISTER – Yes, France totally agrees with this. Moreover, it’s in line with the 2005 European Council conclusions, which asked the Commission to review the revenue side of the budget, including the British rebate. This is what I told the European Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, and then my British counterpart, David Lidington, at my meetings with them a few days ago at the Quai d’Orsay.
Q. – But does a review mean abolition of this famous rebate?
THE MINISTER – That’s the logical direction of travel here. The British rebate, introduced in 1984, was justified at the time by the fact that British prosperity was far lower than that in the rest of Europe. That’s now no longer the case! Moreover, to take account of both this development and the entry of the new Member States, which were demanding from Europe their share of financial solidarity, the rebate was already revised downwards by decision of the European Council in 2005. For us, it’s a normal move towards greater justice and transparency between the Member States in the financing of the European budget.
Q. – How much does the British rebate cost? Would its abolition have consequences for France?
THE MINISTER – I remind you that France is the leading contributor to the British rebate. In 2009, it amounted to about €5.4 billion, of which France was liable for 1.4 billion, i.e. 25% of the bill paid by us! France, who, confronted with the crisis, has made unprecedented commitments on controlling public finances, is today the second largest net contributor to the European budget with a negative balance of around €5 billion a year.
This situation must not endure beyond 2013./.