Cameron claims days of 'crazy' EU budgets are over

29th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed Friday that the days of "crazy" European Union spending are finished after a deal to keep Brussels in line with reduced national budgets.

Conservative Cameron extracted agreement in Brussels to squeeze the EU's ever-expanding budget during delicate negotiations shaping the bloc's funding requirements for the next decade.

Preaching austerity for all after announcing the biggest cuts in decades at home, he claimed to have torpedoed a planned six percent rise for 2011 ahead of EU budget talks next week in Brussels.

"We prevented a crazy six percent rise in the EU budget, we made sure the EU budget must respect domestic spending cuts and we protected the UK taxpayer from having to bail out EU countries that get themselves into trouble."

Cameron said a "long overdue" principle had been secured, adding that "important steps" had been taken "to begin to bring EU finances back under control.

"This applies for every single year from now on, including the crucial 2014 to 2020 EU spending round," he said.

EU president Herman Van Rompuy said the negotiations on EU long-term funding must "reflect the consolidation efforts being made by member states."

A December summit will examine "how to ensure that spending at the European level can make an appropriate contribution to this work."

Cameron had until Wednesday fought for a total spending freeze but had to settle for next year's budget increase to be limited to 2.91 percent -- which would still cost British taxpayers 435 million pounds (some 500 million euros or 700 million dollars).

Cameron had been out-voted on the issue in September when only seven countries objected to a joint call by states for a rise of no more than 2.91 percent next year.

In a lively late-night exchange on Thursday, EU parliament president Jerzy Buzek told Cameron that "if you're against six percent, you're anti-European," a diplomat said.

Cameron retorted: "When I'm cutting the police budget, does that make me anti-police?"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel chimed in: "I'm cutting the German budget. Am I anti-German?"

The exchange prompted German European parliament Socialist group leader Martin Schulz to point out that if Cameron really wanted to drive down EU costs, all he had to do was give up the multi-billion-euro rebate won by his predecessor Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s.

Cameron insisted on Friday that that was not an option.

Twelve leaders, including Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, signed a petition endorsing Cameron's position.

The others were from Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden.

The EU budget was around 123 billion euros (172 billion dollars) this year.

Cameron, who was attending only his second EU summit, is due to host Merkel at his English country retreat on Saturday and then Sarkozy for Anglo-French talks on Tuesday.

About three-quarters of the EU's cash budget is funded through national government contributions, the rest coming from a levy on national VAT receipts and import duties.

Britain argues that other states want to see the EU budget rise because they are net beneficiaries, whereas it says London is a net contributor, despite billions returned to Britain each year under a deal negotiated by Thatcher in the 1980s.

© 2010 AFP

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