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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 December 2005, 12:28 GMT
Angela Merkel's 'EU triumph'
By Ray Furlong
BBC News, Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the summit in Brussels
Mrs Merkel has been dubbed the "secret EU president"
New German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the agreement reached in Brussels as "a good accord for Europe", saying it sent out a signal of hope for the development of Europe.

But it was also something of a personal triumph for Mrs Merkel herself, who was attending her first European summit.

While she praised the British presidency in the EU for its readiness to compromise, her own role as an honest broker was crucial to the final deal.

It was Mrs Merkel's proposal for increasing the budget that broke the deadlock, freeing funds for Eastern European states and paving the way for a deal.

One German journalist dubbed her the "secret EU president".

But it was not classic German "chequebook diplomacy".

Germany will pay more into the EU coffers than Britain had originally proposed - but still less than it had been prepared to pay at the last summit six months ago.

Other funds will come from Britain giving up a large chunk of its EU rebate.

'Sign of change'

Mrs Merkel acknowledged the importance of the traditional Franco-German partnership in forging the deal.

She said she had prepared all the major initiatives with France - and the two countries were still a "motor".

But the chancellor believes Germany has worked too exclusively with France in the past, and this summit showed a sign of change.

Speaking afterwards, she made an explicit statement supporting the possibility of altering EU spending plans within this budgetary period - a key British demand that the French had opposed because it threatens their cherished agricultural subsidies.


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