Summit of EU leaders ends with no budget deal reached
BY Associated Press
Saturday, November 24, 2012
11/24/12 at 6:13 AM
A summit of the European Union's 27 national leaders, charged with agreeing on a long-term budget for the bloc, broke up Friday afternoon without being able to reach a deal.
Coming just days after the 17 eurogroup finance ministers failed, yet again, to agree on the conditions for releasing badly needed bailout money for Greece, the failure of the two-day summit raises questions about how the bloc makes important decisions. In most cases, unanimity is required, meaning that each country wields veto power.
The EU's top officials, who put in long hours trying to soften up the national leaders individually before putting them together in the same meeting room, tried to put a brave face on the budget deadlock.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who presides over the summits, said the "constructive discussions" at the summit meant an agreement could be reached early next year. He added that the national leaders had instructed him and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to continue working toward consensus over the coming weeks.
The prospect of failure had hung over the EU leaders' summit, charged with agreeing on a long-term spending plan of around (euro) 1 trillion ($1.25 trillion) for the 27-country bloc, even before the meeting began. Some countries wanted the budget to rise, while others insisted it had to fall.
Van Rompuy tried to thread the needle. He proposed a budget with some cuts, but in a post-summit press conference, he also offered a nod to those countries who believe greater spending is essential to spur growth in countries hit by recession.
"Growth in one country benefits all," he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, the most vocal proponent of holding the line on EU spending, said he had found "strong allies" in the Dutch and Swedish leaders.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stressed that it was important that Britain "remain engaged" with Europe "because Britain is important to the EU as a whole."
For his part, Cameron was firm.
"The deal on the table from the EU President was just not good enough," Cameron told reporters after the summit broke up.
"We haven't got the deal we wanted, but we've stopped what would have been an unacceptable deal," he said. "And in European terms I think that goes down as progress."
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy arrives for the EU summit in Brussels on Friday. He held hope that a budget pact could be reached next year. VIRGINIA MAYO/Associated Press
British Prime Minister David Cameron: "We haven't got the deal we wanted, but we've stopped what would have been an unacceptable deal," he said of the failed budget talks during a summit of European union leaders. "And in European terms I think that goes down as progress."