UK, France, Germany oppose rise in EU spending

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Britain, France and Germany said Thursday they oppose a hefty rise in the European Union’s 2011 budget, insisting that austerity in member countries should trigger moderation in EU outlays.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in an EU summit confrontation with Parliament President Jerzy Buzek on the EU’s budget.

Cameron is pushing through deep cuts in British public spending and insisted a proposal to raise the EU’s 2011 budget by 5.9 percent over this year “is completely unacceptable.”

Buzek said, however, that more money is needed because the EU is getting “new responsibilities with every new treaty,” the latest of which came into force last year.

Buzek addressed the EU summit leaders.

Afterward, he acknowledged that “those who took the floor took the position of David Cameron,” but said they didn’t represent a majority of the council.

In defending spending cuts at home totaling 81 billion pounds ($128 billion), Cameron told British lawmakers on the eve of the EU summit that “the greatest priority for Britain should be to fight very hard to get the EU budget under control.”

The EU budget for 2011 is now projected to total €142.6 billion ($198 billion). Buzek said a 5.9 percent increase was not “unreasonable” and would bring new spending to benefit research, energy, environment, education and other areas.

The EU budget still accounts for only 1 percent of EU GDP, a share that has remained unchanged in 20 years, but the EU has gone from 12 to 27 members in that time and its responsibilities have grown.

In negotiations to date, Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland and Sweden have insisted the EU budget increase be limited to 2.9 percent.

In the past, Britain has often resisted hefty rises in EU spending and once vetoed a budget.

But under EU rules that took effect this year, a veto is no longer possible.

Budgets are now voted on and under the EU’s complex weighted voting system. Officials say Britain and its allies need more votes to stop the 5.9 percent increase in 2011 outlays.