German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L, up) talks to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R, down) while French President Francois Hollande (C, down) looks on during the family photo session of EU extraordinary summit in Brussels, capital of Belgium on Nov. 23, 2012. Top leaders of the European Union (EU) on Thursday began hard talks over the bloc's budget framework for 2014-2020 at a crucial summit amid competing demands of member states that could lead to all-night bargaining.(Xinhua/Zhou Lei)
BRUSSELS, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Top leaders of the European Union (EU) suspended tough talks over the bloc's budget framework for 2014-2020 after a late-night meeting amid competing demands of member states.
The first session of the two-day special summit finished after midnight, while negotiations are expected to continue on Friday noon, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in his Twitter postings.
Sources revealed that Van Rompuy had brought up a revised proposal and member states needed to study it overnight before resuming their negotiations.
The aim of the summit was to ensure that the EU would have enough funds to function, taking unavoidable fiscal constraints into account, Van Rompuy said earlier in his invitation letter.
Determined to strike a deal after his first budget cuts proposal to cut around 80 billion euros triggered fierce debates, Van Rompuy had held one-on-one talks with 27 national leaders from morning till night on Thursday to smooth negotiation obstacles. But European leaders remained largely at odds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to be in favor of a moderate cut in times of Europe's budgetary consolidation, while French President Francois Hollande insisted that the budget must still give priority to growth and preserve the common agricultural policy.
"Europe is a compromise... I have come to look for a compromise," Hollande said on Thursday after arriving in Brussels.
The so-called multiannual financial framework is to decide the ceiling and structure of EU spending over a seven-year period, which also shapes the bloc's policy priorities, although its actual budget is decided annually in separate negotiations.
Maintaining or increasing the trillion-euro budget from the 2007-2014 period is preferred by a few member states including Greece, as well as the European Commission and the European Parliament.
The other camp, led by Britain which threatened to veto any budget increase, called for EU-level austerity at a time of crisis, despite disagreeing with each other over which projects should be cut.
"At a time when we are making difficult decisions at home over public spending, it would be quite wrong, it is quite wrong, for there to be proposals for this increased extra spending in the EU," British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday.
In the meantime, Cameron vowed to protect Britain's rebate from being cut in the budget, which is worth about 3.6 billion euros (4.6 billion U.S. dollars) a year.
Other member states came with their own national agenda, with France and Spain resisting cuts in the agricultural sector, and poorer member states in central and east Europe opposing cuts in infrastructure spending.
"Spain is worried about our farmers, and cohesion funds for our regions and Spain will fight for these," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said.
The meeting is likely to be dragged into Saturday provided talks do not collapse, while Merkel said another budget summit could be necessary early next year.
A source of both solidarity and tension, the EU budget in particular reflects the conflict of national interests, as well as opposing arguments on how to fix the crisis and save Europe's future.
If no deal can be reached by the end of next year, the 2013 budget ceiling will be rolled over into 2014 with a two-percent inflation adjustment, which may bring much uncertainty for long-term projects.
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