Joy over EU budget deal

An agreement on the new European Union budget in the early hours of Saturday was hailed as «a powerful message» by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis after Greece secured 20.1 billion euros in funding over seven years. After frantic negotiations, the leaders of the 25 member states agreed on a deal that sets the EU budget for 2007-2013 at 862.3 billion euros or 1.04 percent of the Union’s combined gross income. They also decided that any reform of farming subsidies would take effect after 2013. Karamanlis left Brussels claiming Greece had achieved its aims and that reaching a deal could prove a turning point for the EU. «It sends a message that Europe can overcome its difficulties and can progress,» he said. «The British presidency deserves praise for its constructive role in the complicated negotiations and for the courage it showed in revising its rebate.» Britain agreed to give up 20 percent of its rebate as part of the deal, which will see the European Commission conducting a review of EU spending, including the Common Agricultural Policy, before delivering a report by 2009. «We protected our interests and achieved all our goals. We fought so that Greece would not lose even a euro,» said Karamanlis. Government sources said last week that a deal giving Greece 20 billion euros was acceptable. The premier’s enthusiasm was not shared by his political opponents at home. «The Greek government went there with an offer and came away with the same one,» said PASOK leader George Papandreou «It appears there was no plan and no real negotiating.» The Socialists argued that Karamanlis accepted a deal offering Greece 20 billion euros in June and did not try to improve its position. Papandreou also said that the reform of farming subsidies was likely to hurt Greek farmers. It was also agreed during the Brussels summit that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) be granted candidate country status, however, EU leaders said that «further steps» would have to be considered in the light of a «debate on the enlargement strategy.» Karamanlis said he was pleased with the deal since since no date was set for the start of FYROM’s membership negotiations and finding a mutually acceptable solution to its name would be one of the criteria for accession talks.