HIGHLIGHTS-Leaders' comments ahead of EU budget negotiations

Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:43pm EST

BRUSSELS Nov 22 (Reuters) - European Union leaders face a long and bitter tussle to agree future spending plans worth 1 trillion euros ($1.28 trillion) at a summit starting on Thursday.

Negotiations are scheduled for Thursday and Friday but could run into the weekend.

Following are comments by EU leaders and officials ahead of the talks.

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY

"These negotiations won't be easy, but I've come in good spirits...

"I will have bilateral meetings with Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Britain and Poland and I hope something reasonable comes out."

ON SPANISH PRIORITIES:

"Spain is worried about our farmers, and cohesion funds for our regions and Spain will fight for these."

"Our main concerns are agriculture, the regions, ultra-peripheral regions, such as Ceuta, Melilla. If the EU budget goes down, then Spain will have to contribute less. But it is premature to talk about numbers now."

ON PROSPECTS FOR A DEAL:

"I would like a deal, but even if we don't get one, it won't be a drama, because we are talking about a budget that starts in 2014 and it would be the first time a budget was approved in the first attempt. We want something balanced."

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER ROBERT FICO

ON PROSPECTS FOR A DEAL:

"I think there's little probability of an agreement. There would have to be compromises by several countries, which I cannot imagine at this moment."

"We are a country that can argue that it's not right to punish successful countries. Because there are proposals designed to punish mainly countries which had high economic growth and were consolidating. I'm afraid there will be nothing (a deal), so there's no point to talk about priorities at this moment."

POLISH PRIME MINISTER DONALD TUSK

ON PROSPECTS FOR COMPROMISE:

"It won't be easy. If I was going to assess the chances of reaching a compromise today, then I would say they are less than 50 percent."

ON BUDGET PROPOSALS:

"It's worth looking for savings anywhere, but we shouldn't fall into a trap such as when someone says '100 billion or 10 billion of cuts', and pretends it's about administration. This is an effort to block the compromise more than anything else.

"Cuts, yes, but moderate ones, to support the compromise and not to demonstrate a problem."

FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE

"I am not here to lay down ultimatums, I am here to seek a good compromise. This budget must be brought under control but must also give priority to growth.

"No country should be looking to take back what it has contributed: that would mean we have no more Europe.

"We must preserve the Common Agricultural Policy, which is a pillar of the European Union."

ON PROSPECTS FOR COMPROMISE:

"No country has a position which should take priority over those of other countries. Europe is a compromise. Everyone has to come with their positions and defend them, and then find the best way to lead Europe for seven years - seven years.

"In order to find policies that will be useful for all Europeans, I have come to look for a compromise. I have not imposed an ultimatum. I am sure that Germany will, as usual, be the driving force for such a compromise."

ON FRENCH PRIORITIES FOR THE BUDGET:

"First we need to have a budget that is sufficiently consistent for growth policies to be clearly favoured."

"Among the priorities that appear to me to be in the interests of France and in the interests of Europe there are research, innovation, transport and infrastructure - but there is also the Common Agricultural Policy. Why? Because that enables us to feed our population and have food security..."

"This budget must correspond to the interests of Europeans. That is, place priority on growth, solidarity and cohesion funds, funds that allow other countries to finance large infrastructure - and then the Common Agricultural Policy, because this is not a French policy, but a European policy."

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

ON OVERALL EU SPENDING:

"It concerns the European Union's sustainable future and investment in research and development, better use of the money. Germany will go into the negotiations in a constructive way and naturally represent its own interests. For us, particularly in times of budgetary consolidation in Europe, we have to make sure that the spending is not too high."

ON NEGOTIATIONS:

"It is important that we arrive at a solution. Whether that can happen now in these two days, Thursday and Friday, I don't know.

"Germany wants to reach the goal but it may be that we need a further stage."

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER MARIO MONTI

ON BUDGET TALKS:

"This is a very serious and difficult negotiation. The next seven years of the European Union are at stake. There are three essential objectives: fairness, solidarity and the efficient use of resources.

"Until now Italy has been penalised disproportionately."

ON OVERALL EU SPENDING:

"For us it's not that important as it is for others to have a limit on the total budget, because some things are by now produced more efficiently at EU level than at national level, and would hence make the member states save."

ON DRAFT PROPOSALS:

"It is absolutely essential that Italy obtains better results than those presented in initial drafts, on the cohesion funds, agricultural funds, and on mechanisms."

"We will not accept solutions that we consider unacceptable.

ON WORKING FOR A SOLUTION:

"We will be ready also after this session, if we don't get an agreement, to work in a constructive fashion, but we will have the same rigour for Europe that we are showing towards ourselves."

FINNISH PRIME MINISTER JYRKI KATAINEN

ON BRITAIN'S POSITION:

"We have to deal with the UK and we need a whole budgetary deal and I do hope we will find a solution for the UK also because now we are building a budget for the EU 27, you need the UK to be in.

"...I know they have some disagreements with the budgetary lines but we all have some preconditions and we all must be ready for compromise, otherwise we don't have a compromise."

ON HOW LONG NEGOTIATIONS COULD TAKE:

"I should be in Finland tomorrow, but I'm sure that I won't be. The earliest stage is very, very late tomorrow evening, hopefully so."

SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER FREDRIK REINFELDT

ON SWEDEN'S POSITION:

"We want the overall spending levels to come down and also a more modern budget. It should more address the competitiveness problems that we see in Europe.

"We can see that we have nine net contributors that are contributing quite much to the EU budget. I think it's a value in itself if these nine countries could stick together and bring down the expenditure levels."

"It is clear that there we are part of a group that pays a lot. We are thorough with how the money is used. There are a lot of countries in Europe with big problems and you can't suddenly pop up in Brussels now and pretend that this isn't the case anymore."

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE

ASKED IF WAS PREPARED TO VETO AN UNFAVOURABLE DEAL:

"My idea is that you have to keep your loaded gun in your pocket and once you put it on the table you are putting so much pressure on the negotiations that they don't lead anywhere. I always have a loaded gun in my pocket during negotiations, only figuratively speaking, of course."

ON THE NETHERLANDS' POSITION AS A NET CONTRIBUTOR:

"We accept that the Netherlands will remain a net contributor, but we will insist on a fair deal that includes our rebate and a modern and sober EU budget that reflects these austere times."

ON PROSPECTS FOR AGREEMENT:

"I'm not sure we'll succeed in one go. It's very complex. I have been in touch with several colleagues over the past days and only had one message.

"If it doesn't happen at once we have to avoid worsening the atmosphere by so much that we need months to restore personal relations. Let's try to get talks to a quiet end and continue in January."

LUXEMBOURG'S PRIME MINISTER JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER

"I expect very tough negotiations, things are not close enough to get to a quick agreement."

"We don't need much more money but also not a lot less. We have made decisions about the past years, also the European Council (...) to finance adequately."

ON BRITAIN'S POSITION:

"I can't imagine how we can convince them, but they will have to be convinced."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON

"These are very important negotiations. Clearly at a time when we are making difficult decisions at home over public spending it would be quite wrong, it is quite wrong, for there to be proposals for this increased extra spending in the EU.

"So we are going to be negotiating very hard for a good deal for Britain's taxpayers and for Europe's taxpayers and to keep the British rebate."

BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER ELIO DI RUPO

ON BELGIUM'S APPROACH:

"We want an ambitious European budget. We need a good budget to have more solidarity in Europe, for different countries and different policy areas such as agriculture..."

ASKED ABOUT BRITAIN'S APPROACH:

"It's a shame that for the British, Europe is primarily a single market. For me, for Belgium, Europe is more solidarity and prosperity for all Europeans, so I will plead with somebody such as David Cameron for more an ambitious budget.

"Is this possible or not, we will see, but I hope that other countries such as Italy and France will support us for the ambitious budget."

"I'm afraid that it will be another marathon."

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