EU leaders turn focus to climate, budget issues

BRUSSELS (AP) — After agreeing on terms for a new Brexit deal, European Union leaders are meeting again on Friday to discuss other thorny issues, including the bloc’s budget and climate change.

No decision is expected on the next long-term budget for 2021-2027, though, a topic more divisive than Brexit.

Leaders need to find a compromise that satisfies countries in favor of minimal spending, those arguing that it must at least be maintained at the current level and others fighting for increased contributions from members states to compensate for Britain’s planned departure.

The Finnish presidency of the council is expected to present a draft including a proposal on the overall level of financing. A top French diplomat said the draft will be contested, insisting it’s crucial to keep a high level of funding in order to maintain the same level for agriculture and increase money for climate, innovation and migrations issues.

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Some other big net contributors, including Germany, disagree and are trying to limit spending from 2021.

The diplomat, who was not authorized to be identified publicly, said that to keep the next budget at its current level, member states will need to contribute at least 1.16% of their gross national income. The European Commission has set an objective of 1.11% for an overall budget of 1.113 trillion euros, while the European Parliament has proposed 1.30%.

In the wake of the United Nations’ climate change summit, the Council will continue talks on its goal of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 and leaders will also discuss the agenda of priorities set up by incoming European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

In June, EU leaders failed to agree on a plan to make the bloc’s economy carbon neutral by 2050. Several large European countries — including Britain, France and Germany — have backed the target, but coal-reliant countries in the east, such as Poland, blocked consensus on the proposal, which entails an almost complete phase-out of fossil fuel use.

Meanwhile, after winning the support of European Union leaders for his new Brexit deal, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has returned to London to try to secure backing from his fractious Parliament.

Johnson will now need to convince lawmakers who rejected the previous deal sealed by his predecessor Theresa May three times to vote for the divorce deal he negotiated.

“We all hope that what we decided yesterday will also be accepted in Westminster,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said.

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