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EU parliament approves bloc's seven-year budget plan

The EU parliament has approved the bloc’s spending plans for the next seven years, including budget cuts for the first time in its history. The vote has ended months of bitter disputes between EU institutions.

European Union lawmakers approved the 28-nations' long-term budget, with 537 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voting in favor, 126 against and 19 abstaining.

Tuesday's vote gave the green light to EU spending of 960 billion euros ($1.3 trillion) in the 2014-2020 period, which is 3.5 percent - or 38.2 billion euros - less than in the previous 2007-2013 budget.

The sums made available in the EU's Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) were far from perfect, according to Martin Schulz, the president of the EU parliament, in a statement released after the vote.

“A more ambitious MFF would have seen higher amounts available and would have boosted a job-rich recovery,” he said.

For months, the European Parliament was locked in a bitter battle with several EU member states over the seven-year spending blueprint. While EU lawmakers sought higher funds to boost growth and jobs in Europe, a number of governments insisted on spending cuts at a time when national parliaments were imposing sweeping austerity measures.

'Only possible budget'

The new budget left no room for maneuver in case of unforeseen events, said Alain Lamassoure, the chairman of parliament's budget committee, and added: “It was not the best possible, it was not the least bad possible, it was the only possible budget”.

Most of the funds provided by the EU over the period will flow back into member states. They are planned to support the bloc's farmers, combat youth unemployment and enhance research and development. Poorer nations receive money via the EU's structural fund to improve their infrastructures.

The last step for the seven-year budget plan is a vote by EU government leaders in the next days, with their approval widely seen as a formality.

uhe/ph (AFP, dpa, AP)