* Talks begin to finalise EU spending for 2012, 2013
* Governments seek to limit proposed spending increase
* Failure could jeopardise deal on long-term EU budget
By Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, Nov 9 European Union governments got a
taste on Friday of the bitter battle to come on the bloc's next
long-term budget, as talks between EU negotiators on spending
for this year and next came to a head.
The dispute over the 2013 budget and extra spending needs
for 2012 is seen as a litmus test for a tricky EU summit on Nov.
22-23, when leaders will try to agree the bloc's next long-term
budget for 2014-2020, worth almost 1 trillion euros ($1.3
"If we succeed in these negotiations now, we will create a
better atmosphere for convergence and agreement in the (summit)
negotiations," said Cyprus's deputy minister for EU affairs,
Andreas Mavroyiannis, who will lead Friday's talks.
"If not, I suppose this will poison a little bit the
atmosphere. It's never the end of the world, but let's hope for
the best," he told Reuters ahead of the meeting.
In both sets of talks, top budget contributors, including
Germany, France and Britain, want to limit proposed increases in
EU spending to better reflect austerity policies at home.
The EU's executive, the European Commission, and EU
lawmakers have demanded a budget of 138 billion euros in 2013,
representing a way-above-inflation 6.8 percent rise compared to
Most national governments want to limit any increase to 2.8
percent, and have identified about 5 billion euros in cuts to
proposed regional development aid and overseas spending in areas
such as development assistance and trade promotion.
Britain warned that failure to limit next year's budget rise
would make it harder to agree on the bloc's next multi-annual
financial framework (MFF).
"From our point of view, the higher any increase in the
annual budget, the less prospect there is for agreement on the
seven-year MFF," Britain's junior finance minister, Greg Clark,
told his EU colleagues.
One major incentive for net budget contributors to limit
next year's spending is the fact that if agreement on the
2014-2020 framework is delayed, the budget ceiling for 2013 will
be automatically rolled over with an annual increase for
An added complication in Friday's talks is a Commission
request for an extra 9 billion euros in 2012, which it says is
needed to fill a funding gap that threatens to cut off EU funds
for education, infrastructure and research projects.
The new Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said he
doubted the Commission's claim that the bloc would be unable to
pay its bills without the extra money.
"I'd question that very much. The Commission has to
re-prioritise, that's just the way it is. Budgetary discipline
is not just for the member states," he told Reuters.
EU officials said a deal on the 2013 budget would not be
possible without an agreement on the extra spending needs for
If Friday's talks fail to deliver, negotiators will have
until midnight on Nov. 13 to reach a compromise. If that
deadline is missed, the Commission would be forced to come up
with a new proposal on next year's budget.
If no deal is reached before the end of the year, the budget
for 2012 would be divided into 12 equal amounts and paid monthly
into the EU's coffers, causing disarray in the bloc's spending
in areas such as agriculture.