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EU Members Urged to Decide on Budget


The European Union is urging its members to make sacrifices to reach a crucial budget agreement to cover spending for 2007 to 2013. Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, hopes to have an agreement in time for a summit at the end of the week.

As the EU struggles over money issues, it is being pulled in several directions. It needs new funding to pay for projects in the 10 new nations that joined last year. But countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and France, which are net payers into the European Union, do not want to spend more money. Britain has a special issue. It receives a rebate of several billion dollars a year, and London does not want to surrender it. In addition, there are less wealthy members, like Spain and Portugal, that receive substantial EU funding, and do not want to see cuts.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn says, everybody must feel some pain.

"There can be no doubt about the fact that an agreement on the financial package will require a balanced compromise, which means that certain sacrifices will have to be considered - always on the understanding that these sacrifices are shared out fairly," he said.

Luxembourg has put forward a compromise solution, that has yet to be accepted. The executive European Commission is not happy with the proposal, according to Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"I am, of course, also aware of the need for compromise, but still I must say what is on the table is not sufficiently ambitious," he added.

Delay in winning a budget deal will put much needed public investment in poorer, new EU members at risk. It also sends a signal of continued political weakness, following the rejection of the EU constitution by France and the Netherlands.

On another topic, EU officials are looking forward to the international conference on Iraq, set for June 22 in Brussels. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Asselborn says the EU hopes Iraq sends a wide-ranging delegation representing the various factions in Iraq. He also said all voices in Iraq should be heard in drawing up the future constitution of the country.

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