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Europe

Britain Should Compromise on EU Budget, Chirac Says

French President Jacques Chirac termed the current proposals for the EU budget "unsatisfactory" and urged a restructuring of Britain's rebate.

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Chirac and Blair: Who will give, who will take?

"The current proposals from the British presidency (of the EU) are unsatisfactory from the French point of view," French President Jacques Chirac said before a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

"It is vital that every member state carries an equal share of the cost of enlargement," he said, adding that this implies "a long term restructuring of Britain's rebate."

Chirac und Merkel

Chirac visited Merkel near Berlin on Thursday, their first meeting since she took office

The meeting between Chirac and Merkel at a castle outside Berlin was described by Chirac's spokesman as an attempt to align the positions of the two nations traditionally considered the motor of the European Union ahead of its crunch budget summit on Dec. 15 and 16.

Merkel was more cautious in her remarks, saying she did not want to single out specific elements of the budget proposals for criticism, and urging member states "to use every opportunity" to reach an accord.

Merkel: plan has 'rough patches'

"When one is preparing for negotiations it is often better not to single out specific details and not to assume a definitive stance," she told a joint press conference of the two leaders.

Earlier this week she also called on the British government to revise their proposals.

"We could, from the German side, imagine improvements on some points. A first examination shows that this draft still has many rough patches throughout," she said on Tuesday.

Of rebates and farm subsidies

Under the British proposal, overall EU spending between 2007 and 2013 would be cut to 1.03 percent of the 25-member group's gross national income, or an estimated 846.8 billion euros.

Landwirtschaft Viehwirtschaft in Frankreich Milchkühe Milchproduktion EU-Quoten

French dairy farmers benefit from EU milk quotas

Britain would forgo eight billion euros over seven years of its cherished annual budget rebate, but most of the savings would come from a seven to eight percent cut in planned funds for new member states.

Britain has also called for a midterm spending review, opening the door to potential cuts in farm aid, of which France is the main beneficiary.

Chirac told British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday that he hoped "the presidency could make new proposals that would above all ensure that Britain plays its full part in financing an enlarged Europe -- and not just till 2013 but over the long term," a spokesman for the French president said on Tuesday.

Chirac wants 'joint approach'

Chirac's spokesman said the president hoped to "build a joint Franco-German approach" on the budget before next week's summit in Brussels.

Germany is the European Union's biggest economy and has long been its biggest net contributor. It does not want to see its contributions increased, while France is resisting reform of the bloc's generous farm subsidies.

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