Greece determined to claim its share of new EU budget

Greece prepared to fight its corner yesterday as European Union leaders met in Brussels to attempt to thrash out a deal over the upcoming budget, during negotiations that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said would be «tough and tiring.» Leaders from the 25 member states gathered as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said the result of the talks was «very much in the balance.» His views were echoed by the Greek premier. «It is a very difficult issue. Finding common ground among 25 states, each with their own views and priorities, is by definition a difficult task,» said Karamanlis. After having its budget rejected last week, the UK has put forward a new UK proposal which increases the 2007-13 budget by 2.5 billion euros compared with its first suggestion. It means the EU would spend just short of 850 billion euros over the seven years. Under the latest proposal, Greece stands to claim some 20 billion euros through the Fourth Community Support Framework. Athens appears to be pleased with this offer but government sources suggested there was concern about the overall deal being rejected. The government’s worry is that if a deal is not reached now then many Greek regions will not be considered sufficiently deprived from next year to be liable for special subsidies.