Chirac, Merkel craft common strategy for EU budget

8th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Dec 8 (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac were to meet outside Berlin on Thursday to align their positions for European Union spending ahead of the bloc's crunch budget summit next week.

BERLIN, Dec 8 (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac were to meet outside Berlin on Thursday to align their positions for European Union spending ahead of the bloc's crunch budget summit next week.

The leaders of the two states traditionally seen as the motor of the EU, have both criticised the budget plan tabled by the British EU presidency on Monday, but Chirac has been more damning in his remarks.

He has described the proposals for the bloc's 2007-2013 spending "a problem" and urged London to return to the drawing board.

Under the British proposal, overall EU spending between 2007 and 2013 would be cut to 1.03 percent of the 25-member group's gross national income, or an estimated EUR 846.8 billion.

Britain would forgo eight billion euros over seven years of its cherished annual budget rebate, but most of the savings would come from a seven to eight percent cut in planned funds for new member states.

Britain has also called for a midterm spending review, opening the door to potential cuts in farm aid, of which France is the main beneficiary.

Chirac told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he hoped "the presidency could make new proposals that would above all ensure that Britain plays its full part in financing an enlarged Europe -- and not just till 2013 but over the long term," a spokesman for the French president said on Tuesday.

"The current proposals made by the British presidency are a problem," he added.

Merkel said on Tuesday: "We could, from the German side, imagine improvements on some points. A first examination shows that this draft still has many rough patches throughout."

A spokesman for Chirac said the president hoped to "build a joint Franco-German approach" on the EU's spending plans before the budget summit in Brussels on December 15 and 16.

"These should allow us to finance common policy goals and the European Union's enlargement ... while ensuring a fair division of the financial burden."

Germany is the European Union's biggest economy and has long been its biggest net contributor. It does not want to see its contributions increased, while France is resisting reform of the bloc's generous farm subsidies.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier this week held out hope that an agreement could yet be reached.

"We see the proposal of the British presidency as a working basis, in which there are some aspects which we like, others where we see urgent need for more work," he said in Brussels while attending a pre-summit 'conclave' with his EU counterparts.

"We want an agreement before Christmas. We hope to have it at the end of next week. I am not without confidence that it can be achieved. It won't be easy."

Thursday evening's meeting between Chirac and Merkel in a castle near Postdam outside Berlin will be their second since she took office in late November.

They met in Paris on the day after she was sworn in, as the new German chancellor sought to send a clear signal that she wished to preserve strong ties with France while restoring strained transatlantic relations.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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