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EU commissioner defends draft long-term budget hike

A member of the EU Commission has called on Britain to declare whether it intends to remain part of the bloc in the long term. The comments come as part of an ongoing debate over proposed increases in the EU's budget.

The European Commissioner for Financial Planning and Budget used an interview published in the Friday edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper to defend his long-term budget draft, which some argue is too high.

"We can't create more Europe with substantially less money," Janusz Lewandowski told the Munich-based daily. "We need the money because the EU has many more responsibilities. Just think about the (EU) expansion and the resulting costs," he added.

Lewandowski's draft budget for the seven years beginning in 2014 comes in at around one trillion euros ($1.3 trillion), about a five percent increase from the previous seven-year period. However, critics have argued that with national governments in the eurozone in particular being forced to implement austerity measures, it is the wrong time for the EU to be demanding more money.

Cameron's headache

The issue came to a head in Britain on Wednesday, when the country's parliament passed a motion calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to demand a reduced EU budget at a summit in Brussels later this month.

Cameron responded by pledging that he would use the United Kingdom's veto to block any EU budget that was "not in the interest" of Britain.

Lewandowski responded to this by saying Britain needed to decide whether it was in or out of Europe.

"Either it sees its long-term future in the European Union or not," he told the Süddeutsche.

Britain is far from the only country to have expressed reservations about the EU's draft budget. France has threatened to bloc a budget deal over proposals to reduce farm subsidies, while Denmark is demanding a rebate on its contributions to the bloc, similar to those already enjoyed by other member states, including Britain and Germany.

Following a meeting with visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her determination to get a budget deal done.

"Germany will do everything in its power to try to achieve a solution. Ireland will also do this - we spoke about it - and now we'll have to see how things develop," the chancellor said.

pfd/kms (dpa, Reuters)