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Europe

EU Commission budget demand sets up new battle with member states

The EU Commission wants to increase the bloc's 2012 budget, but national governments focused on slashing their own spending at home aren't keen to fork over more money.

An abacus

The draft budget provides 132.7 billion euros

Despite the tense budgetary situation in many member states, the European Commission has requested a nearly 5 percent increase in funds for the bloc's 2012 budget - a move sure to irk states demanding a spending freeze.

EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski, who on Wednesday described the request as "a delicate balancing act combining austerity and growth boosting measures for 500 million Europeans," said it's fair to question why the EU budget should be increased by 4.9 percent at a time when member states are cutting their own national budgets.

He added, however, that the increase was necessary in order to fund many long-term projects in 2012.

Fierce debate

"A termination of funding would be unthinkable at this stage," said Lewandowski, adding that the EU could otherwise be sued for breach of contract by funding recipients.

Budget plans have been the source of bitter dispute between EU institutions and its largest member states Germany, France and Britain. Last year, the proposed increase for the 2011 budget was reduced from 5.9 percent, a request backed by the parliament, down to 2.9 percent after resistance from governments.

EU countries are expected to make their offer in July. "We can expect tough negotiations," Lewandowski predicted, while hoping that compared to the fraught talks on the 2011 budget, on which a deal was reached only at the last minute, "this time it can go in a smoother and less politicized way."

EU countries are expected to make their proposal in July. "We can expect tough negotiations," said Lewandowski.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has begun a push to freeze the budget in 2012, a move supported by Germany, France, Finland and the Netherlands - the five countries whose contributions make up half the EU budget.

Author: Sarah Harman (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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