Netherlands will not contribute more to EU budget, Dutch PM says

The Netherlands does not intend to contribute more to the European Union budget in the coming years, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said to EU president Charles Michel at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. The 27 EU leaders will gather at an extra summit in two weeks time, during which the EU budget and the member states' varying viewpoints thereon will be discussed, NOS reports.

The Netherlands together with Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Germany - called the "frugal five" by Rutte - wants to make cuts to the EU budget, instead of spending more. "We are net payers and I don't see why we have to pay more," Rutte said, according to the broadcaster. He told Michel that the Netherlands already faced financial setbacks from the EU side over the past years, having to pay more due to migration and the Brexit. 

Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz said that he will use his veto if the EU budget increases too much. "I will not do that," the Dutch Prime Minister said. "I think you should talk first and not immediately put a veto on the table."

Opposite the frugal five is a large group of countries that believe no budget cuts must be made. Spokesperson for this group, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, recently called it unacceptable if less money goes towards the so-called cohesion funds. Last weekend the leaders of these countries came together in Lisbon to discuss their plans and as a show of force. 

Rutte said he had to laugh a bit about that meeting. "We also held a summit. Only the frugal countries did not fly throughout Europe. We held a video conference, which is much cheaper."

The Dutch Prime Minister is not optimistic that a solution to the budget conflicts will be found at the summit on February 20th. "I also understand that the enormous modernization that the Netherlands wants, with less money going to agriculture and cohesion funds, will not work because other countries think differently about that. But I do want to change some things."