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Pressure on EU leaders to agree budget

Thursday, February 07, 2013 - 02:07

Feb. 7 - European leaders have begun high-pressure talks on a long-term budget, from 2014 to 2020, which will assign nearly 1 trillion euros in spending. But the countries remain divided, with some determined to refocus spending on growth and others demanding farm subsidies. Joanna Partridge reports

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Farmers from Europe's Baltic states took their protest to the European Council in Brussels. Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians were demanding a more equal European agriculture policy. Those subsidies are one of the main sticking points for EU leaders meeting try and agree on the bloc's 7 year, 1 trillion euro budget. It's their second go at trying to reach a consensus, and the talks could be as frosty as the weather. The first round of negotiations hit deadlock late last year. Then, British Prime Minister David Cameron and a few other leaders were calling for the EU to curb its spending between 2014 and 2020. SOUNDBITE: British Prime Minister David Cameron, saying (English): "The European Union should not be immune from the sorts of pressures that we've had to reduce spending, find efficiencies and make sure that we spend money wisely, that we are all having to do right across Europe. When we were last here in November, the numbers that were put forward were much too high. They need to come down and if they don't come down there won't be a deal." Last time, Cameron found an unlikely ally in the German Chancellor. She said she couldn't be sure of a deal. SOUNDBITE: German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying (German); "The positions are still far apart. For Germany, I can say that we will do everything for such an agreement to materialise because it is very important in a time of economic uncertainty and high unemployment to have a plan." The summit pits the more fiscally conservative northern Europeans against the southern and eastern countries who want money for infrastructure and agriculture. All 27 member states need to agree to the budget. France, and Italy, are the biggest recipients of farm subsidies. SOUNDBITE: French President Francois Hollande, saying (French): "If, in trying to find a compromise at any price, Europe abandoned its common agricultural policy and ignored growth, I wouldn't agree." The leaders expect to meet for two or three days - and the pressure to secure a deal is increasing. Diplomats say that if the leaders can't reach agreement in the coming days, it might not be possible before late 2014 or even 2015.

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Pressure on EU leaders to agree budget

Thursday, February 07, 2013 - 02:07