HIGHLIGHTS-Leaders' comments from EU budget negotiations
BRUSSELS Nov 23 (Reuters) - European Union leaders failed to reach agreement on a new seven-year budget for their troubled bloc, calling off talks in less than two days after most countries rejected deeper spending cuts demanded by Britain and its allies.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy decided to end a summit on the 2014-2020 EU budget, worth about 1 trillion euros, and try again early next year rather than continue negotiating into the weekend.
Following are comments by EU leaders and officials after Friday's talks:
FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE
ON CHANGES TO REBATES FOR NET CONTRIBUTORS:
"France will continue to push for a change to the way these rebates are calculated and keep asking for all countries to contribute to their payment."
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON
ON POSSIBILITY OF A BUDGET DEAL:
"From a budget of nearly 1 trillion euros, it is simply not acceptable to carry on tinkering around the edges and shuffling chunks of money from one part of the budget to another. We need to cut unaffordable spending.
"And that is why we and others rejected the deal that was on the table. But we still believe that a deal is absolutely doable."
ON FREEZING EU BUDGET LEVEL:
"Freezing the budget is not an extreme position, it is eminently reasonable.
"It is possible and it would not result in my view in the hardship of any member state.
"There is no excuse whatever for not taking a much tougher approach towards the EU's administrative costs.
"The idea that EU institutions are unwilling to even consider these sorts of changes is insulting to European taxpayers."
ON HERMAN VAN ROMPUY'S BUDGET PROPOSALS:
"We can't increase spending in the EU when we are cutting at home. We rejected an attempt to commit British and European taxpayers to real terms increases.
"Frankly, the deal on the table from the president of the European Council was just not good enough. It wasn't good enough for Britain and it wasn't good enough for a number of other countries.
"Together we had a very clear message: we are not going to be tough on budgets at home and then come here and sign up to big increases in European spending."
EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT HERMAN VAN ROMPUY
ON POSSIBLE CUTS IN EU BUDGET:
"There were some who wanted lesser cuts and some who wanted more, so I kept the line, not excluding that in further stages we will have to modify the level of expenditures. But I am proceeding in stages.
"My feeling is that we can go further... it 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."
ON POSSIBILITY OF REACHING AGREEMENT:
"The bilateral talks yesterday and the constructive discussion within the European Council show a sufficient degree of potential convergence to make an agreement possible in the beginning of next year. We should be able to bridge existing divergences."
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE
"Net paymasters are not ready to agree to this level of payments, they want to cut them even more, by at least 30 billion euros.
"The next meeting will be in the beginning of next year probably in January, February. The atmosphere was surprisingly good because the divergence in opinions was so large that there was nothing to argue about.
"It was not only Britain, all the net paymasters were not ready to agree to this level of spending and still asking for at least 30 billion of cuts. (EU Council President) Herman Van Rompuy got our authorisation to prepare a new proposal for the beginning of next year."
Following are earlier comments by EU leaders and officials ahead of Friday's session:
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL
"We had the opportunity to study the proposals of Mr Van Rompuy last night. I believe that we won't get where we want to be in this round either, which is a unanimous decision. We will discuss this now.
"I have always said that it wouldn't be dramatic if today were only the first step, we will see in the next hours. I think the positions are still far apart and if we need a second round we will take the time to do it."
FINNISH PRIME MINISTER JYRKI KATAINEN
ON VAN ROMPUY'S REVISED PROPOSAL:
"It's very close to what he proposed a few days ago, so the differences weren't that big. He had reallocated some resources but the overall level was exactly the same (as) what was in his previous proposal. It's very difficult to say how far we can go today, everything is open."
"I do hope that we can move on, but if that is not possible we have to come back some other day. Everything seems to be open. Some opinions are very far from each other and it's very difficult to assess at the moment what will happen today."
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON
"I don't think there has been enough progress so far.
"I mean there really is a problem in terms of there hasn't been the progress in cutting back proposals for additional spending.
"It isn't a time for tinkering, it isn't a time for moving money from one part of the budget to another.
"We need unaffordable spending cut. That is what is happening at home, that's what needs to happen here."
AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR WERNER FAYMANN
"The first thing is that I don't see an agreement among the 27 members. One of my main concerns is that we get anything together at all that will last for seven years.
"In an economic crisis, that should be our first goal, that you get a seven-year budget together if you are holding speeches about growth every day. I think we are still some way away from reaching that goal."
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