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EU leaders strap in for budget rollercoaster

European Union leaders have gathered in Brussels to discuss the EU's next seven-year budget. All 27 member states must approve the budget, which has some leaders concerned amid opposition.

A large euro symbol on the ground as repairs are made

Symbolbild Verhandlungen über EU-Haushalt 2013 zunächst gescheitert

Thursday marks the start of the highly anticipated showdown of EU leaders as they try and hammer out a budget for the period between 2014 and 2020.

Some countries, including Germany and Britain, support cuts to the EU budget of at least 100 billion euros ($128 billion).

"Clearly, at a time when we're making difficult decisions at home over public spending, […] it is quite wrong for there to be proposals for this increased spending in the EU," said British Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrived in Brussels Thursday.

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EU budget - What's all the fuss?

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has also backed a cut, albeit a less severe one, which would reduce the planned budget by 80 billion euros. The EU has proposed a budget of one trillion euros for 2014-2020, compared to a budget of around 920 billion euros for 2007-2013.

But other influential member states, including France and Poland, have voiced opposition to reductions that directly affect their interests. They benefit substantially from budget funding allocated to farm subsidies and development aid for the EU's poorer states. Three quarters of the EU budget is currently channeled into these two areas.

If leaders fail to reach an agreement, more negotiation would be necessary. Previous EU budget negotiations have gone beyond deadline and involved tedious negotiations.

Sources from within the German government, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Thursday that there was "still some wiggle room in terms of time."

"If a few months are needed for opinions to be formed and political coordination to be carried out in the capitals, then it's not the end of the world," the sources said.

Speaking in front of parliament in German budget talks on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was unsure a deal would be able to be reached Thursday or Friday, and if not, "we will have to meet again at the beginning of next year."

mz/kms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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