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Hollande welcomes EU Budget 'compromise'

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Hollande welcomes EU Budget 'compromise'
Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP
17:34 CET+01:00
France's President François Hollande on Friday said an EU deal on the bloc's multi-year budget was "a good compromise," but reaction in France has cast doubt over the extent of French gains.

"It was an agreement that as usual was long to produce, but which I believe is a good compromise," Hollande said at the close of a marathon 25 hours of tough talks over the €908 billion budget (a cut of 3%) for 2014-2020.

Speaking at a press conference from Brussels on Friday evening, the French president side-stepped suggestions that the Franco-German alliance had been compromised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's alliance with a 'victorious' British prime minister David Cameron in the budget negotiations.

"That's an old debate. Let's talk figures," said Hollande.

"The British wanted €885 billion in payment credits. We wanted €930 billion. We ended at €908 billion, so in fact, the British compromised by €23 billion."

Amid French gains, 'worries for the future.'

Analysis has been swift on both sides of the Channel, with Britain's Eurosceptic Daily Telegraph saying the negotiations had left François Hollande looking "weakened and isolated."

French centre-right daily Le Figaro said the division between Germany and Britain on one side, and France on the other, was "worrying for the future" as it "confirmed the paralysis of the Franco-German axis."
 
It pointed out that the €908 billion payment ceiling was much closer to the final British demand of €905 billion than to Hollande's final demand for a "payment floor" of €913 billion.
 
The resulting deal, in which Britain's prized €4-billion budget rebate remained virtually intact, was a "double success" for David Cameron, showing Eurosceptics that he could set limits to the EU's ambitions and showing Europhiles that the UK could make a difference to EU decisions, the paper said.
 
There were some gains made by the French president, however, particularly concerning the Common Agricultural Policy, where cuts were less heavy than had been expected. At his Brussels press conference on Friday, Hollande claimed that he had made agriculture one of his "main priorities" and had reached his goals in that respect.
 
French daily Le Parisien labelled it a “victory” that, under the historic new deal, the agricultural budget would be reduced from 41.5 billion in 2014 to 37.6 billion euros in 2020. It also said that France received "special treatment" thanks to a special fund dedicated to its rural development.
 
The budget cut came just days after the French president had warned against too much austerity at the expense of growth in his speech to the EU parliament.

In his speech to the European Parliament earlier in the week, Hollande had warned deputies about the dangers of cutting spending.

“Yes, make cuts but weaken the economy, no," Hollande said just days before EU leaders discussed the budget.

Earlier on Friday, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy broke the news of a finalized budget with a tweet.

'France no longer has influence over Europe.'

French popular opinion appeared to be divided in the immediate aftermath of the budget deal. One reader of Le Figaro represented a degree of resentment  towards Britain's influence over the negotiations.

"The worst thing is that the British are not really a part of Europe, but profit from all the positive aspects and give lectures."

However, there was an opposing strand of thought which laid the blame on President Hollande, who leads a Socialist government.

One reader commented:  “Reason – embodied by Cameron – was the real winner at this summit ... it’s a shame France is so badly represented. France no longer has influence over Europe because it is too weakened by socialism.”

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