Britain, France hammer home opposition to EU budget

29th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

EU heavyweights Britain and France hammered home their opposition Friday to a budget hike by Brussels, whose 2014-2020 financial plans have angered austerity-focused governments.

David Lidington, Britain's European Union affairs minister, told reporters that plans for a five-percent increase could not be justified in hard economic times.

Speaking on the sidelines of talks called by Poland, which currently holds the 27-nation EU's rotating presidency, Lidington said London wanted "a real terms freeze, at most".

"I actually think that a real terms freeze is lot more modest than what a lot of European countries are implementing domestically," he said as the two-day informal gathering wrapped up in the Baltic resort of Sopot.

At the end of June the European Commission -- the EU's Brussels-based executive body -- came under a hail of fire when it unveiled a draft budget for 2014-2020.

It included a five-percent rise from the previous seven-year financial cycle, to 1,083 billion euros ($1,552 billion). Brussels relies on member states for the bulk of its funds.

"We want to see European institutions accept the need for financial discipline that not just governments but ordinary families throughout Europe are having to accept," said Lidington.

His French counterpart Jean Leonetti echoed the comments.

"How would we be able to explain that we're cutting our deficits by working to reduce public spending, and at the same time increase European spending in a major fashion?" he told reporters.

"In the current climate, we need to be coherent about policies on the domestic front and those outside," he added.

Germany, the other member of the EU's "big three", has also insisted that Brussels show frugality.

On Thursday in Sopot Germany's EU affairs minister, Werner Hoyer, said Berlin saw "the necessity of a freeze, and not an increase".

The budget plan redefines EU priorities, for example by reducing farm funds in favour of infrastructure investment and the greening of Europe. It focuses strongly on cross-border energy, telecoms and transport grids to streamline economic integration in the world's biggest market.

© 2011 AFP

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