EU leaders brace for long budget summit

EU leaders brace for long budget summit

French President Francois Hollande, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel chat before the soccer friendly match between France and Germany in the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France, Wednesday, Feb.6,2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union leaders braced for all-night negotiations in Brussels to try and strike a deal on EU spending for the next seven years, especially after the summit start was delayed by hours.

Britain is leading several northern countries looking for cuts in the 2014-2020 budget while southern and eastern nations want funding to continue so that the wealth gap among the bloc's 27 countries can be reduced.

Expectations are that the final figure for the seven-year budget will dip tens of billions of euros below the €1.03 trillion ($1.35 trillion) total originally wanted by the Commission, the EU's executive body.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has been pushing for a real term cut in spending, arguing that the budget must reflect austerity spending that individual nations are pursuing at home. Poland, meanwhile, is expected to lead the group seeking continued support for the poorer member states, especially those that have already been hit hard by the financial crisis.

The summit was slated to start in mid-afternoon, already earlier that the usual evening start, but EU summit host delayed the start to 1630GMT. The delay allows for more bilateral meetings between the leaders to seek a common stance before the joint session officially opens the two-day meeting.