EU budget battle stretches into extra time as divisions continue

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, center, arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, center, arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. Copyright Ludovic Marin, Pool Photo via APLUDOVIC MARIN
By Joanna Gill
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European leaders meet for a second day of talks to hammer out a compromise over the EU's long-term budget.


The extraordinary summit over the EU's budget resumed for a second day on Friday after leaders failed to reach a deal despite talks stretching into the early hours of the morning.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte left the first day of negotiations declaring that he had "not much" in way of an update. But he then struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that discussions were going on a "steps by steps" basis.

Bridging the gaps between the rich net contributors who want to tighten purse-strings and poorer countries who don't want cuts, has proved a tough test for EU Council president Charles Michel.

All eyes are on the frugal four. Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark do not want a budget above 1% of the EU's gross national income.

"We want to save money. What we don't want is that the contributions of the net payers go up limitlessly. We represent the interests of our taxpayers. There is the latest proposal of Council President Charles Michel of 1.07 per cent (of GNI), so things seem to be going in the right direction," Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Chancellor told our reporter on Thursday.

The group also wants to retain rebates and to pour money into more "modern" policies at the expense of cohesion funds.

But a second group of 15 member states, known as Friends of Cohesion, are pitching for this specific pot of money — handed out to less developed areas of the bloc to bridge infrastructure and economic gaps — to remain level.

"It's going to be a complicated discussion. My view has been clear from the beginning. We cannot be expected to do more with less," Kyriákos Mitsotákis, Greek Prime Minister said on arriving Thursday.

Talks reconvened at 12.00 CET but hopes are that an agreement will be found sooner rather than later.

A source inside the summit told Euronews that although attendees had initially prepared for the negotiations to stretch into Saturday, the talks should actually conclude on Friday.

Even if leaders manage to reach an agreement, the European Parliament has indicated that it could reject the proposal when it is brought to a vote.

"The Parliament's position is very clear: The (budget) proposal presented is unacceptable and it won't be voted for," David Sassoli (European Parliament president) told reporters.

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