Chirac demands lasting cuts in UK's rebate

15th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Dec 15 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac demanded in talks with Britain's Tony Blair Thursday that any agreement on the EU's budget include a "lasting" cut in Britain's rebate, his spokesman said.

BRUSSELS, Dec 15 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac demanded in talks with Britain's Tony Blair Thursday that any agreement on the EU's budget include a "lasting" cut in Britain's rebate, his spokesman said.

Britain's budget rebate and France's refusal to revise the European Union's expensive farm subsidy system are the two key issues holding up agreement on the 2007-2013 budget, which will release funds for the EU's new comer states.

In private talks before the start of the EU summit, Chirac told Blair that a deal must include "a lasting revision of the British rebate in terms of its mechanism and its amount," said the spokesman, Jérome Bonnafont.

"We want an agreement at this European summit, but this accord must be fair and everyone must take a fair share of financing enlargement," Chirac said to Blair, whose country holds the EU presidency until the end of the month.

A spokesman for Blair sought to downplay any sense of confrontation at the meeting.

"They were good talks, and we remain convinced the people do want to do a deal. But it is difficult," said the spokesman.

Blair and Chirac met on an upper-level floor of the EU Council of Ministers building, the summit venue in Brussels, with the French leader jabbing his finger at the British prime minister.

Going into the meeting, Blair was seen tugging the cuffs of his shirt — routine unconcious behaviour for him whenever he goes into what he knows could be a tough tête-à-tête.

The British EU presidency hopes to finalise a deal on the future spending plans before the summit ends on Friday. British officials have warned that if it fails, an accord is unlikely to be reached next year.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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