Dutch PM backs smaller EU budget post Brexit

(Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte laid out his vision for the post-Brexit European Union on Friday, calling for a smaller budget and spending in poorer states to be tied to economic reforms.
Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives at a European Union leaders informal summit in Brussels, Belgium, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
In a speech in Berlin, Rutte said further integration was not inevitable and urged better enforcement of existing agreements, with the EU becoming a bloc where“Brussels serves the member states, and not the other way around.”
The Netherlands has lobbied for favourable exit terms for Britain, the Netherlands’ second-largest trading partner, but would support whatever deal Brussels negotiates.
Rutte spoke as British Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to outline her plans for Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
Rutte sought to position the Netherlands’ as the Union’s strongest budget hawk.
“My goal for the multi-annual budget is this: no increase in contributions, but better results within a smaller budget,” Rutte said.
Dissatisfaction over EU budget contributions has become a major political issue in the Netherlands, usually the largest contributor to the Union budget on a per-capita basis.
Rutte criticized spending on agriculture and the Union’s development funds, which make up 70 percent of its budget.
“Spending a little less on these things will make room for our new priorities” such as stronger border controls and more spending on military infrastructure, he said.
Funding for European development projects should be tied to recipient countries’ willingness to carry out structural economic reforms, a suggestion backed by the E.U. Commission.
In an apparent reference to Hungary and other Eastern European countries, he said funds should also be tied to adherence to European agreements, such as accepting a proportionate share of refugees.
“EU solidarity is a two way street.”
He also called for the creation of a mechanism for restructuring the debts of member states in fiscal difficulties and for the scrapping of notary guilds and other“protected professions.”