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Brussels 'optimistic' over EU budget

EU presidency holder Lithuania says a 2014 compromise budget for the 28-nation bloc is imminent between the EU's three institutions. Its parliament, member nations and executive had argued for months over cuts.

Sixteen hours of talks into early Tuesday in Brussels delivered a compromise to cap the EU's budget for 2014 at 135.5 billion euros in spending, according to Lithuanian Finance Minister Algimantas Rimunkas.

That would be six percent below the 2013 budget due to economic austerities sought especially by Denmark, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.

EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said early Tuesday he was "optimistic" that the Council of Ministers' overnight talks in Brussels would satisfy the European Parliament. There was no more reason for delay, he added.

The parliament is due to vote on November 19 on the EU's seven-year budget, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) - which is put at one trillion euros for the period 2014-2020.

'Growth, jobs, innovation'

Rimunas, who shuttled between representatives of the three institutions ahead of a Wednesday deadline in Brussels, said the focus for 2014 remained on "growth, employment and innovation."

A budget at 135.5 billion euros would be slightly less than that sought by the Commission and one billion less than the 136.4 euros demanded by the EU parliament.

The overnight talks also produced a 400-million-euro supplementary budget to cover relief work in the wake of Europe's severe flooding in June - drawing on funds still in the kitty for 2013 and an allocation out of the 2014 budget.

Flood compensation

The natural disaster along the Elbe and the Danube caused billions of euros of damage in Germany as well as in the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

The German news agency DPA said officials at the overnight talks had agreed to fulfill a demand by the European Parliament that 200 million euros in funds unspent in 2013 be devoted to scientific research projects.

ipj/ng (dpa, AFP, AP)