Britain has proposed a smaller European Union budget, raising fears that the summit next week will collapse like the last round of talks.The British EU presidency has put forward a package that cuts planned aid to the poorest new members of the 25-nation bloc. To help reach agreement, Downing Street has offered to give up part of its rebate – one of the main bones of contention at the last summit. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the proposal “unrealistic” and a budget for a “mini-Europe.” Josep Borrell, the president of the European parliament, said he did not believe the proposal would be easily accepted by the body. Britain’s suggestion is to cut 25 billion euros off the 871-billion-euro budget proposed by the previous EU president, Luxembourg. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said that, even after the cuts, the newest EU members would be getting 150 billion euros over seven years. Downing Street has stressed that the bulk of the British rebate will stay until the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is fundamentally reformed. However there is no guarantee that farm subsidies, which eat around 40 percent of the budget, will fall before 2014.
Tough EU budget talks ahead