HIGHLIGHTS-Leaders' comments from EU budget negotiations

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 7, 2013 9:01am EST

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BRUSSELS Feb 7 (Reuters) - European Union leaders begin two days of negotiations on Thursday to try to break a deadlock over the bloc's long-term budget.

Following are comments ahead of their talks:

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

"I can't say whether we will be successful, the positions are still far apart. For Germany I can say that we will do everything for such an agreement to materialise because it is very important in a time of economic uncertainty and high unemployment to have a plan. We have to be careful with the way we spend but also show solidarity between net contributors and recipients.

"Whether we will have a joint vote or whether we will get into a situation where we will have annual tranches in the future I can't say today. It would be desirable to have a joint result but we have to wait and work hard, and that's what I will do."

FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE

"France is always conscious of making savings, but at the same time, we must not weaken the economy.

"I am here to get an agreement, provided one is possible. If there are some who are not reasonable, then I will try to reason with them, but up to a certain point."

GREEK PRIME MINISTER ANTONIS SAMARAS

"I believe that structural funds are a guarantee for success, a key for success, because we need - especially in Greece - recovery and growth.

"As you know, the necessary reforms - both structural and fiscal consolidation - are on the way and taking place now in Greece, successfully."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON

"Frankly, the European Union should not be immune from the sorts of pressures that we've had to reduce spending, find efficiencies and make sure that we spend money wisely, that we are all having to do right across Europe. When we were last here in November, the numbers that were put forward were much too high. They need to come down and if they don't come down there won't be a deal."

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER MARIO MONTI

"We hope to find an agreement which will have to have two fundamental features ... It must be an agreement in line with the priorities we have set at the European Council, to signal growth. In terms of the budget that means making an integrated Europe with trans-border connections and other things that allow for growth. It must also be an equal budget, which touches on issues of transfers between countries which are very important. Growth and equity are more than ever two crucial ingredients for the progress of Europe. We will fight for both to materialise and we hope that there will be an agreement."

"It remains to be seen" (whether there will be a compromise today).

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE

"We have three priorities. First we believe that if in the member states people are confronted with austerity measures, the European Union also makes savings. It is important for us to keep our rebate, that means that a country like the Netherlands can explain the amounts it spends on the European Union. Thirdly it is important for the budget to modernise, so more is spent on things that deliver jobs, also in the Netherlands, that agricultural funds are spent in a more modern way and that money is spent on hard research and real innovation." (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Robert-Jan Bartunek)

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