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Flags of Germany, France and the European Union flutter in the wind before the meeting of French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, May 15, 2012.
Flags of Germany, France and the European Union flutter in the wind before the meeting of French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, May 15, 2012.
(Tobias Schwarz/Reuters)

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It’s Europe versus Europe in a budgetary clash of the titans

A trillion euros is up for grabs and, suddenly, there is an awful lot of grabbing. The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, is trying to secure agreement among the 27 member states over its seven-year budget. The richer nations that supply most of the cash, including Germany and Britain, want cuts to the septennial budget; unsurprisingly, the civil servants want more money to spend on their pet projects and have proposed a 5 per cent increase. But the real political battle to come, between those who want more (the Eastern and Balkan states) and those who want to take some back (the northern Europeans), is going to be ugly. Moreover, it will expose to public view the widening fractures in the European project.