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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
UK to push for deal on EU budget
Jack Straw
Mr Straw said discussions on funding would continue.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says drawing up a "rational budget" will be a key part of the UK agenda as it takes over the presidency of the EU.

In a Commons statement, Mr Straw said he hoped financial agreement could be reached by the end of the year.

European Commission president Jose Barroso said a deal would "not be easy" and that leaders needed to compromise.

Talks on fixing the budget for 2007-13 collapsed two weeks ago amid rows about Britain's rebate and farm subsidies.

'Complacency'

Speaking in Dublin ahead of his meeting with the prime minister on Friday, Mr Barroso also criticised Tony Blair's attempts to link the "very different" issues of the Common Agricultural Policy and the British rebate.

"I do not think the best way is to link reform of CAP to the British rebate and I've said it very clearly to Tony Blair," he said.

But he said the EU countries should be "ready to support the efforts of the British presidency" and reaching financial agreement was "possible".

He warned Britain it would have to compromise over the rebate and said countries who were beneficiaries of CAP would also have to compromise.

The Conservatives accused Labour of "complacency" for not directly tackling the Common Agricultural Policy.

Shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox accused the government of a presidency which was "unambitious and complacent".

"At this very momentous time, our government has failed in the task of leadership," Dr Fox said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Nothing less than full reform can be acceptable
Gordon Macmillan, Falkirk, Scotland

Launching a white paper to mark the start of the EU's presidency in the Commons, Mr Straw said discussions on future funding would continue under the UK's leadership.

He said Europe's sugar regime would be discussed at a meeting of world trade organisations in December.

"This is an important part of the continuing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)," he said.

On the question of the UK's rebate, Mr Straw later said it was "seeking to address that anomaly" which he said was based on another anomaly.

The UK would also use its presidency to aim to resolve the "difficulties" on the working time directive, in a way which "preserves the freedom of the individual to work the hours they choose and maintains the Government's ability to deliver high quality public services".

The UK's EU presidency would also aim to achieve more effective EU regulations, by embarking on a "major programme" to reduce the "volume and complexity" of EU legislation.

The EU and Turkey alike stand to gain greatly from a democratic and prosperous Turkey anchored in Europe
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

In relation to EU enlargement, Mr Straw said the British government was "strongly committed" to the prospect of Turkey joining the EU, but he acknowledged that among some member states this issue still prompted controversy in public opinion.

"The EU and Turkey alike stand to gain greatly from a democratic and prosperous Turkey anchored in Europe a demonstrations that Islam is compatible with the values of liberal democracy which form the bedrock of the European Union," he said.

During it's presidency the UK would also chair EU summits with India, China, Ukraine, Russia and Canada and would pursue EU key foreign policies on the Middle East, Iran and EU support for Iraq.

Following up the EU's aid commitment, its "stronger action plan" for Africa and pursuing progress on climate change was also on the agenda, Mr Straw told MPs.

The UK takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union on 1 July for six months.

When a country holds the presidency it is expected to be neutral, but the UK has made it clear it intends to push the controversial argument that the European Union budget needs fundamental reform.

France has insisted the deal which fixes farm payments until 2013 should not be changed.




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