Brussels

EU budget deal sees Italy's net contribution cut

New European budget 'significant improvement' says premier

EU budget deal sees Italy's net contribution cut

Brussels, February 8 - Italian Premier Mario Monti said Friday's deal on the EU's budget for the next seven years was "satisfying" because it featured a "very significant improvement" in Italy's contributions. He said Italy's net contribution - the difference between what it pays into the bloc and receives from it - will be 3.8 billion euros for the 2014-2020 period. The net contribution was 4.5 billion in the 2007-2013 period, although it reached six billion in 2011, when Italy was the biggest contributor to the EU budget in relation to the size of its gross domestic product. "We negotiated very hard," said Monti. "I think it's a significant, concrete start towards a reversal of the trend, but there will certainly be further battles". However, Monti failed in his bid to prevent the EU's multi-annual budget being cut for the first time ever. European leaders agreed to set a new budget ceiling of 960 billion euros, down from 1.03 trillion euros, after marathon negotiations. The cuts had been called for by Britain, Germany and other northern European countries. Italy had been trying to combat them, saying the EU needed a higher budget to be able to promote economic growth. British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that the people of the UK could be "proud" of his government for "putting a limit on the EU credit card" by fighting for the bloc's 2014-2020 budget to be limited. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the deal "shows to those looking from the outside that we are capable of achieving results". She also said the bloc had "sent a signal of solidarity". French President Francois Hollande said that the EU budget agreement was a "good compromise". He added that getting the leaders to commit "to 960 billion euros (in spending) was undoubtedly the highest figure reachable". But European Parliament (EP) Group leaders Joseph Daul (EPP), Hannes Swoboda (S&D), Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE) and Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens) called the deal passed on Friday "unacceptable". The parliament has the power to veto the EU budget. But Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said he was confident the agreement would not be sunk by the EP. "I think the European Parliament has acknowledged that the negotiations were difficult and probably we'll reach an agreement," he said. photo: Italian Premier Mario Monti and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

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