Britain should make concessions on EU budget rebate, Spanish minister says

Britain should make concessions on its disputed EU budget rebate in order for the bloc to come up with a spending plan for 2007-2013, the Spanish foreign minister said Thursday. Miguel Angel Moratinos said that following a failed attempt in June to agree on such a blueprint, the European Union needs to prove it can show leadership and achieve greater technological development and for this it must have a budget. EU heads of state and government are to meet in Brussels next month to try to hammer out a deal.

Moratinos said Thursday, "When it comes to checks, or distribution of resources, it is always difficult. We like to get a lot of checks. We don't like to sign checks."

"Therefore I would say to our British friends that they seek an intermediate ground. It is not a question of giving or taking away but seeking equilibrium, a fair distribution," he said at a current affairs forum.

Budget talks collapsed in June over farm spending and Britain's budget rebate, triggering a nasty spat between France and Britain. Britain's Ђ5 billion (US$ 6 billion) rebate dates back to 1984. It was won by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and compensates Britain for the small amount it reaps in EU farm subsidies because it has relatively few farmers.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has refused to give it up unless the EU scales back agricultural subsidies which benefit France in particular. He argues that agricultural spending, which accounts for about 40 percent of the EU budget, squanders money that should be spent on science, technology and education, reports the AP. I.L.

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