No one is satisfied with the British EU presidency’s budget proposal but it is gaining some acceptance among the bloc’s members as a basis for negotiation. After talks with Estonia’s prime minister Andrus Ansip, Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso softened his initial criticism:
“We are asking now the British presidency to look at it again. We believe a small step from the British presidency can be a big step for our enlarged Europe and specifically for the new member states.”
To end a deadlock over the budget, several countries said Britain should accept a bigger cut in its own rebate and not slash aid. Britain on Monday offered to pay 8 billion euros more over seven years towards enlargement costs but said more would only come off if others agreed to reduce farm spending.
London’s budget proposal for the year’s 2007-2013 is 846 billion euros. The previous president proposed 871 billion.
Certain partners expressed surprise, saying the UK plan was so self-serving. The Dutch gave it a guarded welcome. Italy rejected it, calling it comprehensively negative, and Germany sounded pessimistic about reaching a consensus at the summit next week. Easterners said they would not be bullied into accepting a bad deal.