Italy sent 5.9 billion euros ($7.7 billion) more to the EU than it got back, equal to 0.38 percent of Italian gross national income. Italy’s largesse vis-à-vis the rest of Europe rose from 4.5 billion euros, or 0.29 percent of GNI, in 2010.
The percentage matters most: it captures the average Italian’s contribution to the European cause. Prime Minister Mario Monti can proudly brandish these statistics at upcoming summits. Advice to his speechwriter: call the budget sacrifice “an Italian downpayment on EU solidarity.”
The net-payer runners-up were Belgium and the Netherlands, each shovelling 0.36 percent of national income into the EU pot. Germany tied for fourth, at 0.34 percent.
So today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung headline — “Germany Remains the Paymaster” — does little more than convey a German mindset. While Germany’s net input of 9 billion euros stayed the biggest in cash terms, the last time it took the biggest relative hit was in 2000. It has since been pipped by the likes of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands — the latter with a seven-year run at the top of the net-payer rankings that did much to sour Dutch attitudes toward Europe.
Long before Lady Thatcher’s deployment of handbag artillery to win the U.K.’s rebate in the 1980s, net flows to and from Brussels have been a sensitive thing. In keeping with that tradition, the European Commission slipped the 2011 numbers out yesterday without any fanfare. It did, however, remind us of its disdain for winners-vs.-losers accounting methods. The math exercise, it said, “is non-exhaustive and gives no indication of many of the other benefits gained from EU policies such as those relating to the internal market and economic integration, not to mention political stability and security.”
source – bloomberg.com
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