Efforts to finalize a new long-term EU budget have suffered a setback after the major parties in the European Parliament rejected a provisional deal. EU politicians have been wrangling over the issue for months.
The statements that came out of the European Parliament on Thursday contradicted reports from just a few hours earlier, suggesting that a breakthrough deal had been achieved that would seek lawmakers approval of the proposed budget.
Parliamentarians from all four major groups vehemently denied that an agreement had been reached. Some suggested Wednesday night's statement by Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, claiming that an agreement on the seven-year budget had been reached, was optimistic at best.
Ireland holds the EU's six-month, rotating presidency until the end of June.
Conservative lawmaker Reimer Böge spoke of "a rather objectionable manipulation" by the presidency, adding that he would step down as parliamentary budget negotiator.
"It is clear that there is no agreement from the European Parliament at this time," the leader of the socialist group, Hannes Swoboda, said. "We will not take a rushed decision without due consideration ... I cannot be blackmailed."
The parliamentary leader of the liberal democrats struck a similar tone.
"On the basis of the disparate and partial evidence we have so far seen, an agreement has not yet been reached," liberal democratic leader Guy Verhofstadt said.
The leader of the far-left GUE/NGL group went even farther, accusing both the European Commission and the Irish presidency of having "intentionally misled the public."
The seven-year EU budget regulates what the bloc can spend on things like agricultural subsidies, infrastructure, and measures to support employment.
Historic spending cut
The process of trying to finalize a budget for the years 2014-2020 has been going on for several months. The leaders of the EU's 27 member states agreed back in February on a budget worth 960 billion euros ($1.27 trillion), which would represent a first-ever spending cut.
A provision included in the EU's 2007 Lisbon Treaty gives the European Parliament a say in fiscal matters, meaning this is the first time that the EU has needed their approval to implement a long-term budget.
EU politicians on Thursday reiterated calls for lawmakers to approve the provisional deal.
"We need clarity," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said. "We don't want to put aside the means to fight youth unemployment."
His Austrian counterpart, Maria Fekter, warned parliamentarians that "not all wishes can be fulfilled."
pfd/dr (AP, dpa, Reuters)