Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a news conference at the end of an European Union leaders summit meeting to discuss the European Union's long-term budget in Brussels February 8, 2013. (Photo : Reuters)
European Union leaders agreed to budget cuts over the next seven years, after being prodded toward further austerity measures by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"European leaders have finally agreed a budget deal for the rest of the decade after a marathon 25-and-a-half hour negotiation session in Brussels, that will lead to the first cut in EU spending in its 56-year history," writes The Guardian.
"David Cameron, who had demanded a cut or at least a freeze in real terms in the near €1tn ($1.3 trillion) budget, will claim victory after the European council president proposed a €34.4bn ($46 billion) cut over the next seven years."
The cut is slightly less than the 1 percent demanded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has long been a proponent of spending cuts and austerity measures in the face of the European financial crisis.
Prior to the agreement, the most stubborn opposition had come from French President Francois Hollande, who chafed at British demands. Cameron has previously stated that the UK will rethink its EU membership in coming years, and Hollande was loath to offer concessions to a country that might not be part of the EU soon.
Ultimately, however, the EU budget may affect individual nations less than politics at home, making the victory mostly symbolic.
"There is a sense of pointlessness after the sleepless night, the brinkmanship and the genuine anger," writes The Economist.
"The EU budget accounts of just 1% of the EU's national wealth, and 2% of governments' spending. It matters most to smaller, poorer countries for whom EU transfers offer a real economic boost (more than 4% of GDP for some). But for the big, wealthy states that are the main contestants in the budget fight, the net contributions amount to about 0.2%-0.3% of GDP. By the end of the battle, the amounts in dispute were even smaller: a billion here and there, divided over seven years and among 27 members."