EU budget plans for 2011 cut by ministers

Image caption, The budget corresponds to 1.02% of the EU's gross national income (GNI)

EU governments have slashed 3.6bn euros (£3bn) off the EU budget for 2011 proposed by the European Commission.

The biggest savings are in the cohesion funds targeted at the EU's poorest regions - 1.1bn euros lower than in the commission's draft budget.

The allocation for farmers and fisheries was cut by 820m euros, and 841m was shaved off programmes aimed at boosting Europe's competitiveness.

The 126.5bn-euro budget is yet to be approved by the European Parliament.

Tough negotiations are expected next month, before the parliament adopts its position on the budget in November.

Administration cuts

The amended budget agreed on Thursday still represents an increase of 2.9% compared with this year's EU budget.

The savings included 162m euros slashed off the proposed funding for EU administration. There would also be a freeze on nearly all staff recruitment in Brussels.

The European Schools, attended by the EU civil servants' children, would take a 13m-euro cut and pension payments for retired EU officials would be cut by 22m euros.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the EU budget parameters should reflect the austerity budgets adopted by national governments in the EU.

"As we reduce our deficits, I think it is very important that we both argue to make sure that the European budget is, over time, reduced rather than increased," he said.

He was speaking at a joint news conference in London with his Danish counterpart Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

"We cannot ask our members of the public to pay more in the UK and have to pay more in Europe as well," Mr Cameron said.

The UK and Denmark voted against the amended budget, as did Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden, because they wanted a lower overall figure or smaller allocations in certain areas.

But the full European Council - the body grouping all 27 member states - had a majority in favour of the revised 2011 budget plan.

MEPs are expected to push for higher spending than the national governments are proposing.

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