German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron were set to clash with French President Francois Hollande on Thursday.
Germany and Britain are pushing France and its allies such as Spain and Italy to accept a smaller budget for the bloc over the next seven years.
But Paris and its partner fear the axe may fall on tranches of agricultural and regional funding.
Finland’s Europe Minister Alex Stubb spoke with euronews ahead of the negotiations, rating the chances of a deal at 75 percent.
“You never know with these summits: something unexpected can come up, someone might get frustrated, someone might block, but I think it is pretty much time to get this budget going, after all it is only for one percent of the GDP of all the area of the EU,” he said.
Each of the 27 countries can veto the budget if they deem any deal not to be in their interests.
In the end, it’s about national politics trumping economics, according to André Sapir of the think tank, the Bruegel Institute.
“Status quo is the name of the game with minor changes that allow country to go back home and to claim victory, either on the total amount or what they are getting and for whom they are getting this money,” he said.
Any deal agreed by EU leaders in Brussels must then be approved by MEPs.