FAILURE to reach a deal on the €1trn EU budget could throw some of the initiatives the Government wants to push in its presidency of the union into doubt, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has warned.
Mr Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are confident a deal on the budget can be done at a summit of European leaders this week, and major elements of Ireland's presidency hinge on it.
Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore were in Brussels yesterday, readying the ground for the European Council meeting this Thursday and Friday.
Mr Kenny says his "feeling" is a deal can be struck on the seven-year budget – known as the multiannual financial framework (MFF) – while Mr Gilmore says "the time has come to do a deal".
Negotiations on the budget have been in deadlock since November, during the Cypriot presidency, and securing a deal would be a boost to Ireland's EU presidency.
Talks ground to a halt when countries like Britain refused to sanction an agreement that did not reduce spending enough at a time of austerity across the continent. Agreement would allow Irish ministers push their presidency agendas in areas like the Common Agricultural Policy and the Erasmus student exchange programme – while deadlock would hamper the presidency.
"A range of work hinges on agreement being reached on the MFF," Mr Gilmore said.
"Much of that is work that we want to take forward during the course of the Irish presidency. There are about 70 legislative measures required once the budget has been agreed."
While confident an agreement can be reached, Mr Gilmore said failure to do so would usher in a new "era of crisis and uncertainty".
If agreement is reached, the budget would then have to be given the consent of the European Parliament, and Mr Gilmore says the Irish presidency will agree a "road map" with MEPs on how to proceed.