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EU budget on agenda as Merkel meets Blair

EU budget on agenda as Merkel meets Blair
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It is another busy day for Germany’s new leader. Hotfoot from Brussels where she visited the European Commission president and NATO headquarters, Angela Merkel is in London for talks with Tony Blair.

It is the final stage in her first foreign tour since taking office. And it could prove the most delicate yet with the meeting expected to focus on a major EU row. A deal on the bloc’s long-term budget has been stalled by a dispute. It has pitted Britain against Germany and France where the conservative chancellor began her lightning tour – taking lunch with President Jacques Chirac. The UK does not want to give ground on its cherished and substantial rebate unless EU farm spending, which largely benefits France, is also reviewed. And that is something Paris has so far refused to contemplate. Angela Merkel appears to be sticking with her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder’s support for the French position, although she has given clear signals in the past that her general political instincts are closer to the market-friendly ideas of the British prime minister. Germany’s new chancellor refuses to be drawn on whether she will play the role of mediator. Some, however, believe she could be an honest broker, capable of securing a compromise.