EU budget agreement is 'signal of hope': Merkel
19 December 2005, BRUSSELS - Saturday's crucial EU budget deal has been welcomed by European leaders, with both old and new member states hailing it as a positive move for the future of 25-nation bloc. In an interview Saturday with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, German Commissioner Gunther Verheugen said the settlement freed up the E.U. to concentrate on future expenditure. "That opens the possibility for us to better focus the E.U. budget on future outgoings and to gradually correct the traditionally top- h
19 December 2005
BRUSSELS - Saturday's crucial EU budget deal has been welcomed by European leaders, with both old and new member states hailing it as a positive move for the future of 25-nation bloc.
In an interview Saturday with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, German Commissioner Gunther Verheugen said the settlement freed up the E.U. to concentrate on future expenditure.
"That opens the possibility for us to better focus the E.U. budget on future outgoings and to gradually correct the traditionally top- heaviness of the agriculture subsidies," he said.
He said Germany was relieved by the outcome, which he said had been strongly influenced by new chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel had earlier hailed the accord as a "signal of hope for further European development".
Verheugen said he was confident the budget agreement would get the necessary approval from the European parliament.
Spanish Foreign Minister Angel Moratinos said the result was optimal with a view to Spain's aims. Finance Minister Pedro Solbes said the agreement was good for Europe and good for Spain, noting that his country would remain a net recipient of E.U. funds until 2013.
"The agreement puts the E.U. back on the path and lets us look confidentally to the future," he said.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek described the agreement as "extraordinarily good".
"We have managed to improve on the constructive suggestions proposed by the British council presidency at the beginning of the summit," Paroubek said.
He conceded that while the solution would bring significant E.U. funds to the Czech Republic not all Prague's wishes had been met, but he added: "This is a flaw that we must come to terms with."
Polish Foreign Minister Stefan Meller said the agreement demonstrated the E.U.'s social-minded spirit and its sense of solidarity with the poorer, ten new member states.
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany described the budget agreement as a "big success for Hungary".
"Now it is decided," he said, "that - contrary to all earlier decisions - 85 per cent of Hungarian cohesion investment can be financed with E.U. funds."
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his willingness to compromise on the budget. Blair, he said, had put European financial planning above internal political arguments.
A clearly elated Blair, whose country holds the rotating E.U. presidency, said earlier Saturday: "This is about getting an agreement that allows Europe to move forward."
Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, whose country is joining the E.U. in 2007, said the agreement was a "giant step for the continuation of the European project".
The principle of solidarity had been victorious, he said, and every E.U. country had made a contribution.
The breakthrough deal for an 862.36 billion euro (1,035 trillion dollar) budget secures finances for the E.U. from 2007-13.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso admitted that the agreement did not contain everything he wanted, but he expressed relief that a deal had been reached.
Under the deal - which trims the annual British rebate currently running at about 5 billion euros a year - more money will flow to the bloc's new member states in Central Europe. London is set to lose about 1 billion euros a year under the complex rebate cutting formula.
The deal also proposes a far-reaching review of E.U. finances including farm subsidies. Either way, farm support is to be cut back during the seven-year period from 43 billion euros to 40.6 billion euros annually.
Meanwhile the E.U. announced before the close of the summit that it had agreed to give Macedonia E.U. candidate status if the Balkans country fulfilled certain criteria.
The decision was a signal to other Balkan states that the E.U. also had an European perspective in mind for them, said Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.
Subject: German news