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European Union

European Union leaders strike deal on long-term budget

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have reached an agreement on the bloc’s new long-term budget. The deal came after marathon negotiations at a second summit called to deal with just this one issue.

"Deal done! #euco [European Council] has agreed on #MFF [multiannual financial framework] for the rest of the decade. Worth waiting for," Van Rompuy wrote on his Twitter account.

The agreement would set an absolute ceiling of 960 billion euros ($1.3 trillion) on EU spending for the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020 and cap actual spending at 908.4 billion euros. This represents a 3 percent cut compared to the 27-member bloc’s current long-term budget, which expires at the end of 2013

EU budget deal reached

It is also significantly lower than the billion-euro budget that Van Rompuy had originally proposed at an EU summit back in November. Back then, all the leaders could agree on was that they needed a second summit to decide the issue.

Austerity wins the day

Speaking at a press conference shortly after announcing the deal, Van Rompuy said that after more than 24 hours of tough negotiations at this second summit, the leaders simply could not ignore the "difficult economic realities" that EU countries find themselves in.

"It had to be a leaner budget," Van Rompuy said. "It's perhaps nobody's perfect budget, but there's a lot of it for everybody. This budget is future-oriented, it is realistic and it is driven by pressing concerns."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who prior to the summit had expressed skepticism about whether she and the other leaders would be able to reach a deal, described the agreement as "good and important."

Merkel, along with British Prime Minister David Cameron, was among the leaders who had pushed for cuts to the original draft. France had been reluctant to agree to cuts to agricultural subsidies.

Parliamentary approval not assured

Despite Friday’s agreement, the draft budget still has to be approved by the European Parliament, and there are indications that getting it through the legislative body will not be easy.

"This agreement will not strengthen the competitiveness of the European economy, but weaken it. It is not in the prime interest of our European citizens," the leaders of the four biggest parliamentary groups wrote in a joint statement following the announcement of the deal.

"The European Parliament cannot accept today's deal in the European Council as it is. We regret that Van Rompuy did not talk and negotiate with us in the last months," the heads of the conservative, socialist, liberal and green parliamentary groups said.

pfd/ccp (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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