Blair tells new budget deal struck by EU leaders best on offer

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday a new budget deal struck by EU leaders was the best that could be achieved under the present circumstances. Blair told the European Parliament he and other leaders would have agreed to a bigger budget for 2007-2013 if it had been more ambitious, and urged a "serious reform" of the spending plan in 2008-09 to ensure it meets the needs of changing Europe.

"There was a tremendous willingness to contemplate a bigger budget. Overall, in my view, it was a budget that, as ever with these budgets, there will be people who will say it should be lower, there will be people who say it should be higher," Blair told the EU assembly.

"But I think, and we thought as the heads of government, that it represented a fair settlement for the present time." Blair was in the parliament to deliver a final report on Britain's six-month EU presidency that ends in less than two weeks.

During a tense summit in Brussels, EU leaders approved a final blueprint for a 2007-2013 budget when Blair offered to slash Britain's lucrative rebate and turn the savings over to the 10 countries that joined the now 25-member bloc last year.

In exchange for agreeing to the deal, Blair asked members of the bloc to agree to a spending review in 2008-09 that could lead to cuts in massive agricultural subsidies.

The seven-year financial package of Ђ862.4 billion (US$1.04 trillion) corresponds to 1.045 percent of the bloc's gross national income. But the EU assembly had demanded a package that would be some Ђ100 billion ($120 billion) higher, arguing that Europe needs more money to be able to adapt to the challenges it is facing, reports the AP. I.L.

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