Hollande snubs EU budget summit

Feb. 8, 2013 at 12:55 AM

BRUSSELS, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- French President Francois Hollande Thursday stayed away from a meeting on the EU budget with the prime ministers of Britain and Germany.

Jose Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission, and Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron for the discussion in Brussels, The Guardian reported. The talks involved a seven-year spending plan beginning in 2014.

Cameron insists the European Union needs a drastic spending cut, suggesting most member countries have slashed their own budgets. In November, he sought 30 billion euros ($40 billion) in cuts.

"The numbers are much too high," he said. "They need to come down -- and if they don't come down, there won't be a deal."

Van Rompuy tried to call Hollande after the discussion ended.

"Hollande was not even answering his mobile," a senior EU official told The Guardian. "The French are playing tough, very tough, more so than in November."

Italy and Spain also oppose Cameron.

Germany contributes more than any other country to the EU budget. Merkel appeared pessimistic about compromise.

The Guardian said an agreement might be forged by using different sets of numbers -- the pledges countries make to the EU and the generally smaller amounts they actually pay. That might allow Cameron on one side to say the budget has been cut significantly, and Hollande and his allies that they have held the line, with everyone claiming victory.

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