Chirac rejects EU planto freeze UK rebate

17th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, June 17 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac rejected Friday an EU proposal to freeze Britain's multi-billion-euro budget rebate, pressing for it to be cancelled outright after 2013.

BRUSSELS, June 17 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac rejected Friday an EU proposal to freeze Britain's multi-billion-euro budget rebate, pressing for it to be cancelled outright after 2013.   

Chirac, speaking at a two-day summit to thrash out long-term EU financing, said he was ready to compromise on overall budget plans proposed by Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency.   

But the EU presidency's plan to curb the size of Britain's rebate did not go far enough, he told fellow leaders, according to a copy of his speaking notes released by his office.

"I think that the presidency's proposal on the ceiling of the British cheque is still insufficient," he said.   

"We must plan on a more substantial reduction and a review of the budget financing after 2013 should call for the end of the cheque," the French leader said.   

The British rebate is a major block in the road to a deal on the EU's 2007-2013 budget plans, with London refusing to give up a refund famously secured by then-premier Margaret Thatcher in 1984.   

Projected to average EUR 7.1 billion annually between 2007 and 2013, it is jealously guarded by London, which says it will only consider a renegotiation if there are cuts in EU farm aid, which heavily favours France, after 2013.   

Chirac rejected any linkage between Britain's contested EU rebate and British demands for reform of the bloc's farm aid system.   

The French leader was hopeful, however that the latest Luxembourg proposals could lead to an agreement on the long-term budget, now worth about EUR 100 billion a year.

"The latest proposals by the Luxembourg presidency could form the basis of an accord, given the difficulties there are in reconciling the various positions and the need for everyone to make an effort."   

The French leader said France would be willing to accept the Luxembourg proposition, even though he said it would cost France nearly EUR 10 billion extra over the seven years.   

But his country would not move any further.   

"I am ready to make this effort if, and only if, it stops there. No way can I go any further."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy ramped up the pressure on Britain to cave in on the rebate.   

"The freeze is not enough," he said. "We have to go further on the British cheque."   

French European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna said that France was willing to make sacrifices to get an agreement on the budget, but that everyone had to do the same.   

"France is ready to make a considerable gesture, a gesture which goes beyond what it thought it would have to make only a little while ago", she said. "But an agreement will be found but only if everybody makes a gesture."

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article