BRUSSELS, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Top leaders of the European Union (EU) are facing tough negotiations over the bloc's seven-year budget scheme as they arrive on Thursday for a two-day special summit in Brussels.
It will be the second time for EU leaders to focus on budget bargaining, since the first budget summit last November achieved little largely due to sharp conflicts of national interest among EU members.
The so-called multiannual financial framework (MFF) is to settle the ceiling and structure of the EU spending over a seven-year period, shaping the EU's mid-term policy priorities although annual budget requires separate negotiations.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy pledged earlier that the MFF should focus on jobs and growth while also reflecting the constraints on public finances at national level.
"The bigger picture must not be lost ... For the first time there will be a real terms cut," the president said, calling for a moderate budget that tackles youth unemployment and boosts growth and jobs.
The negotiations are to be based on Van Rompuy's proposal of an 80-billion-euro cut from the European Commission's original proposal of the one-trillion-euro spending program.
As the principal divergence over spending cuts remains unsolved, intense arguments among key players are inevitable and compromise will not be easily made.
A few heavyweights have taken a hard-line stance upon arrival. Not surprisingly, British Prime Minister David Cameron already warned on Thursday that there would be no deal without further cuts to Van Rompuy's proposal.
French President Francois Hollande, on the other hand, still insisted that economy must not be weakened although certain cuts would be necessary.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed doubts about the possible agreement, adding that "the positions are quite far from each other."
Petr Necas, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, was even quoted by local media as saying that the proposal was unacceptable and his country was ready to use a veto.
Against the background of economic crisis and austerity across Europe, the group led by Germany and Britain have been calling for more spending cuts, confronted by outcries mainly from France and Italy.
The final deal also has to obtain the consent of the European Parliament, and some leading MEPs have warned against budget cuts that may hurt growth and jobs.
The formal start of the summit was delayed for a few hours on Thursday afternoon, giving more time for backroom negotiations and alliances before the general meeting.
The seven-year budget, accounting for around one percent of the EU's gross domestic product, is mainly committed to agricultural and infrastructure projects across Europe.
An agreement is preferred by early this year, in order to leave some time for the adoption of relevant legislation so that the new scheme can enter into force in 2014.
If no deal is to be reached by the end of 2013, the 2013 budget ceiling will be rolled over into 2014 with two-percent inflation adjustment, which may bring much uncertainty for long-term projects.