Brussels, February 8 - Following all-night negotiations, a new draft for the the 2014-2020 budget was presented on Friday by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy that includes an overall expenditure ceiling of 960 billion euros, down from 1.03 trillion euros. The new draft presented to leaders of the 27-country European Union reflected cuts to the European Commission's proposal originally put forth in November 2012. The 34.4-billion-euro cut to be spread over seven years would be the first time in history that the EU has reduced its budget. Italy's net balance improved by 500 million euros per year and includes 1.5 billion euros for the less developed regions, thanks to special funds allocated to the countries most affected by the economic crisis. But growth factors like infrastructure, innovation and research were cut 13.84 billion euros in the draft, down to 125.69 billion euros compared to numbers proposed in November of 139.54 billion euros (164.31 billion in the Commission proposal). Van Rompuy said that approximately six billion euros would be allocated for a long-awaited initiative to combat youth unemployment, accessible for countries where the rate exceeds 25%, including Italy. Outgoing Premier Mario Monti said on Thursday that Italy would go to the Brussels summit fighting for the promotion of "growth and fairness". Italy is against calls from Britain, Germany and other northern European nations for cuts to the Commission's proposed budget for the the 2014-2020 period. The 27-state EU failed to reach an agreement on the budget at a summit in November.
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di Giovanni Pastore