EU summit ends without budget deal
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British Prime Minister David Cameron, the most vocal proponent of holding the line on EU spending, said he had found "strong allies'' in the Dutch and Swedish leaders. And, indeed, it appeared that some countries, including Germany, took pains to ensure that Britain – a country some fear may eventually withdraw from the EU – did not find itself isolated.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stressed that it was important that Britain "remain engaged'' with Europe "because Britain is important to the EU as a whole.''
For his part, Cameron was firm. "The deal on the table from the EU President was just not good enough,'' Cameron told reporters after the summit broke up.
"We haven't got the deal we wanted but we've stopped what would have been an unacceptable deal,'' he said. "And in European terms I think that goes down as progress.''
The EU budget funds primarily programs to help farming and spur growth in the bloc's less developed countries. In financial terms, the budget amounts to only about 1 percent of the EU's gross domestic product, but carries great political significance as it lays bare the balance of power between the bloc's members.
The bloc found itself divided, notably between richer countries that wanted to contain their contributions to the common budget at a time of economic malaise, and poorer ones that rely on EU money for development aid and economic investment.
While Cameron and some other leaders demanded restraint, French President Francois Hollande wanted the budget to keep paying subsidies for farming and development programs.
A number of poorer nations, which are net recipients of EU budget money, argued that a robust budget was good for all countries.
A revised proposal given to the leaders late Thursday by Van Rompuy did little to appease either side. It kept the same total of (euro) 972 billion ($1.25 trillion) in states' commitments as his first proposal – (euro) 21 billion less than the 2007-2013 budget – but it shifted some money away from investment projects toward aid for farming and development.