Contributions

Contributions in Europe

Description of Contributions

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes contributions in the following terms: [1] By far the biggest contributor to the EU budget is Germany, a feature long seen as a just reflection of that country’s wealth and its wartime debt to society. The second largest net contributor has generally been the UK, although from the start of its membership it was by no means the second richest state (see more in this European encyclopedia). This led to Margaret Thatcher’s notorious five-year confrontation with the Community, culminating in 1984 with the British rebate.

The Commission, which alone is in full possession of all the detailed figures, is reticent about member countries’ receipts and contributions, arguing that the figures are unrepresentative and that the unquantifiable economic benefits of membership of the EU are so great that it is unhealthy to focus on actual numbers. In its defence, the Commission makes some valid points. Such estimates as are available take no account of multiplier effects, are far from homogeneous (for example, outright subsidies are not comparable with loans) and are flawed by unallocated expenditure, agricultural price fluctuations and other distortions (thus levies or rebates on imports or exports at Rotterdam are treated as if they formed part of the Dutch balance). It is, nevertheless, clear that over the years the main beneficiaries have been Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Portugal and Spain, with France paying less than its prosperity would suggest and Austria, The Netherlands and Sweden joining Germany and the UK as the main paymasters.

The impending enlargement of the EU, with the accession of impoverished countries from the former Soviet bloc, will add to the demands on the budget.Germany already makes vast internal transfers to the eastern Länder it acquired on reunification, and in 1997 it signalled for the first time that it considered it was paying too much to Brussels. This move, which caused consternation among its partners, was promptly echoed by The Netherlandsand presages battles ahead. (See also Agenda 2000.)

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Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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