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Hungary Proposes Temporary Budget for European Union


Hungary is proposing that the European Union adopt a temporary budget for three years to overcome tensions between member states about the future of the organization, following a failed summit earlier this month.

The Hungarian government is proposing a transitional budget for the European Union to give the member countries time to work out a more permanent funding solution. In the words of one Hungarian official, "the worst compromise is better than no budget at all."

Hungary unveiled its proposal during a visit by British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott whose government is taking over the rotating presidency of the 25-nation European Union.

Earlier this month, EU leaders failed to agree on a framework budget for the years 2007 through 2013, and their summit ended in acrimony and finger-pointing.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Ferenc Somogyi told a radio station the Budapest compromise is a last-ditch solution.

"If there would be no possibility to establish a compromise acceptable for all the member states, we propose that in the next phase, that is, in the framework of the Austrian presidency, we should try to establish the financial framework," Mr. Somogyi says. "Not for a full period of a financial framework, but only as an interim solution for say three years, in order to have a clear picture how member states would think the European Union should develop."

The minister says Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and Mr. Prescott discussed the temporary budget plan Tuesday.

Mr. Prescott has told reporters he is visiting Budapest and other East European capitals to listen to what he calls "the vital voices of the newer member states." Some of the new EU members, especially Poland, have been bitterly disappointed with the EU's inability to agree on a budget.

Speaking after talks with his German and French counterparts in Warsaw, Poland's Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld told the English language service of Polish radio (Radio Polonia) that the dispute over the EU's finances shows a lack of solidarity within the organization.

"There is a need to define a kind of a new type of leadership in Europe. And that leadership should not be constructed in a way that one group of states is directed against the other one," Mr. Rotfeld says.

Former Hungarian trade minister Peter Akos Bod, who now teaches economics, says the fight over funding is a symptom of deeper divisions within the European Union.

"The fact that the powers could not agree on the budget outline is not a surprise. What is a bit more worrying is that there is no understanding about the major goal of the European Union," Mr. Bod says. "Namely support to the agriculture and maintenance of the social order. Or support given to the more dynamic sectors at the cost of some tensions, since farmers of course wouldn't be happy to lose the revenues (from the EU)."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this week Britain will not let down the 10 new EU members during its presidency and will try to forge agreement on the EU's budget.

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