EU budget deal is in sight for Greece

There was hope last night that after a series of meetings between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and a number of European Union leaders, Greece had done enough to secure the funding it wants and that an overall deal on the Union’s budget was within reach. Sources in Brussels, where the leaders of the 25 member states are meeting, indicated last night that agreement over the EU’s 2007-2013 budget was in sight. The UK had reportedly agreed to cut another 2.5 billion euros from its rebate, taking the total to 10.5 billion euros, in the hope that it would pave the way for a deal to be struck. Costas Karamanlis spent the day having one-on-one meetings with several of his fellow EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government currently holds the EU presidency. The UK was keen to confirm a pledge from member states to review the EU’s farming subsidy program, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) but Karamanlis, sources said, was insistent that any reform of the scheme should focus on the period after 2013. If the latest UK proposal is accepted, it would see the total EU budget for the seven-year period stand at around 850 billion euros. Greece is expected to claim 20 billion euros of this in funding through the Fourth Community Support Framework. The government’s main concern has been that a deal would not be struck at this summit and that the next round of negotiations would be held next year. The ruling conservatives fear that by then many Greek regions will no longer be considered poor enough to be eligible for special funding. There is also a fear that any delay will have a knock-on effect on the planning of the 2007 Greek budget. Since 2007 is likely to be a pre-election year in Greece, the government wants to have as much room to maneuver as possible. Karamanlis is also aware that he cannot be seen to be returning with a deal that is worse than ones that have previously been on the table. However, government sources told Kathimerini yesterday that returning with some sort of deal would be better than returning with no deal at all.