EU budget talks collapse, despite last-minute rescue attempts
Talks between EU leaders on a draft budget for 2007-2013 have ended in failure after the United Kingdom rejected a compromise deal on its rebate. Alongside the UK, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland also rejected the draft. This was despite attempts by three of the new EU members, Poland, Hungary and Lithuania, to save the deal by giving up some of their own budget demands. The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek backed the attempt, saying that such sacrifices would have been worthwhile. The EU President Jean Claude Juncker said that the EU was now in deep crisis, but the Czech prime minister was less drastic, saying that he was convinced an agreement would be reached sooner or later. He blamed the failure of the talks on the inability of the union to come to terms with its own expansion.
At the summit leaders did agree to a common stance on the ratification of the European constitution, following its rejection by France and the Netherlands. Delegates agreed not to stop the ratification process altogether, but instead to postpone the deadline. The Czech prime minister said that he would favour the end of next year as a suitable date for the Czech Republic to attempt to ratify the treaty. On Saturday afternoon leaders of the three parties in the Czech government met to discuss their future stance on the ratification process.