European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said Friday that a European Union budget deal was within reach for early next year after a two-day summit collapsed without agreement.
"Constructive discussion" by EU leaders showed "a sufficient degree of potential conversion to make an agreement possible at the beginning of next year," Van Rompuy said, playing down the fact that the summit had ended without agreement on a budget for 2014-20.
"We should be able to bridge existing divergences of views. A European budget is important for the cohesion of the Union and for jobs and growth in all our countries," he said.
With the 27 heads of state and government bitterly divided over spending policy, there had been little hope of a deal on the trillion-euro budget in jsut two days.
Van Rompuy said there was "no need to dramatise" the delay.
"These budget negotiations are so complex they generally take two gos," he added.
British Prime Minister David Cameron headed a group of austerity-driven nations demanding huge cuts in the next seven-year budget to match belt-tightening measures at home.
Divisions between have and have-not nations on how to spend the EU’s billions caused further disagreements.
An EU diplomat said the main obstacle at the summit was Cameron’s demand for reductions in the planned budget adding that “the most virulent” countries by his side were Sweden and the Netherlands.
Cameron had vowed to bring down the budget from a proposed €1.05 trillion($1.35 trillion) to €886 billion.
Cameron said he was not isolated in his demands for cuts to the EU budget, insisting that a group of other northern European countries backed his position.
“This was not Britain as some sort of lone actor,” Cameron told a press conference after the two-day summit ended.
“The deal on the table was just not good enough,” he said. “It was not good enough for Britain and neither was it good enough for Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland and Denmark.”
Cameron had threatened to use Britain’s veto if his demands for cuts to the trillion euro budget, particularly by slashing the perks of EU bureaucrats, were not met.
But having angered many in Europe by using the veto in December last year on a fiscal pact to end the eurozone crisis, this time around he engaged in frantic diplomacy ahead of the summit.
He met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Friday morning.