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European Union searching for agreement on budget

European finance ministers struck a major new deal over their debt crisis. They agreed that the European Central Bank -- Europe’s equivalent of the Fed -- should take over the supervision of the continent’s biggest banks.

European Union leaders are gathering in Brussels to hammer out a budget for the EU. And the task will not be easy with the continent still trying desperately to claw its way out of debt.

The European Union budget is money paid by the member states and is spent on things such as farm subsidies and building roads and bridges in some of the poorer countries. It also pays for the EU bureaucrats in Brussels.

The budget will add up to around $1.25 trillion over a seven year period -- which is only about 1 percent of GDP for the region.

But while the amount up for discussion is relatively small, the process can still be tricky. For one thing, each of the 27 member nations has veto power.

And among the members, there is a divide between the countries that get more out of the budget than they put in, and the nations that are big net contributors. The poorer nations generally want more public spending, while those that contribute more tend to want to cut spending.

Poland, for example, gets $17 billion a year out of the EU, while the U.K. puts in about $11 billion, and it wants, at the very least, a freeze in the budget.

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke today in Brussels. "Clearly, at a time when we're making difficult decisions at home over public spending, it is quite wrong for there to be proposals for this increased, extra spending in the EU."

Cameron is threatening to veto the budget if it doesn't follow this path.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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