Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Budget Talks Collapse in New Setback to Eu

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Budget Talks Collapse in New Setback to Eu

Article excerpt

BRUSSELS -- A summit meeting of European leaders collapsed Friday amid bitter discord over a new budget for the European Union, delivering a further blow to a 27-nation grouping already struggling to contain a debt crisis, social discontent fueled by rising unemployment and doubts about the long-term viability of the euro currency.

Leaders abandoned efforts to set the shape of a trillion-euro long-term budget and called for a new round of talks early next year to try to reach a deal.

British Prime Minister David Cameron -- who along with the leaders of the Netherlands, Sweden and several other countries had pushed hard for deep cuts -- blasted proposals that left spending on the union's administrative machinery intact. This, he said at a news conference, showed that "Brussels continues to exist as if in a parallel universe," referring to the headquarters for the union's institutions.

The refusal to trim bureaucratic costs, which amount to about 6 percent of total spending, is "insulting to European taxpayers" when many governments are slashing spending, Mr. Cameron said.

The impasse after two days of negotiations was the second failure this week in Brussels. European finance ministers met all night Monday without reaching accord on whether to release the next emergency aid round to Greece, where unemployment is around 25 percent.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, who convened the summit meeting and called off the negotiations rather than prolonging them through the weekend, said the EU's budget "has to be balanced and well prepared, not in the mood of improvisation, because we are touching upon jobs, we are touching upon sensitive issues. We should be able to bridge existing divergences" in the new year, he said.

Much of the attention at the meeting focused on Mr. Cameron, who rallied a group of other nations in favor of deep cuts to the Multiannual Financial Framework, a seven-year spending plan. Disagreements over where the ax should fall left France and Germany on different sides, disrupting a Franco-German tandem without which significant deals in Europe rarely happen. …

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