BRUSSELS - The leaders of Britain and France staked out starkly different visions of the European Union's future Thursday as they walked into a budget summit, setting the stage for a long, divisive and possibly inconclusive meeting.
While British Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to keep payments into EU coffers down as low as possible, French President Francois Hollande called for sustained subsidies for farming and development programs for poorer nations.
With each of the 27 nations having the power of veto over the 2014-2020 budget, the summit negotiations could stretch over the weekend, perhaps without result.
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves the building after a bilateral meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. EU leaders begin what is expected to be a marathon summit on the budget for the years 2014-2020. The meeting could last through Saturday and break up with no result and lots of finger-pointing.
Cameron voiced the concerns of several other countries that do not want to see an increase in the bloc's spending plan at a time when many member states are cutting budgets at home.
"No, I'm not happy at all," Cameron said about EU President Herman Van Rompuy's latest offer to cap spending for 2014-2020 at 1 trillion ($1.28 trillion).
"Clearly, at a time when we're making difficult decisions at home over public spending, it would be quite wrong - it is quite wrong - for there to be proposals for this increased extra spending in the EU," Cameron said.
The EU budget primarily funds programs to help farming and spur growth in the bloc's less developed, and it amounts to about 1 percent of the EU's gross domestic product.
France's Hollande said that was worth fighting for, adding he would be happy to walk away from the meeting if his demands were not met.
"No country should have a privileged position," Hollande retorted. "I come here to find a compromise, not to set an ultimatum."
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, supports more spending, arguing that cross-border initiatives will help create the economic growth and jobs that the bloc of a half-billion people needs, particularly during a financial crisis that has pushed some countries into recession.