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Britain finds more friends against EU spending

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(BRUSSELS) - Britain won new allies on Monday in its battle to limit the size of the European Union budget, forming a coalition of eight countries demanding that Brussels match the austerity they face at home.

After rallying France, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands to his side in December, British Prime Minister David Cameron added Austria, Italy and Sweden to his campaign against the European Commission's 2014-2020 budget increase request.

"The important news is that the coalition has got larger," David Lidington, British minister for European affairs, said after a meeting with his counterparts in Brussels.

"We are building on the initiative of last December, adding new member states to the team of those who are determined to ensure that we have effective budget discipline within the European Union," he said.

The eight nations issued a position paper ahead of a regular meeting of EU affairs ministers, complaining that the commission's spending request was "too high" and needed to be "substantially lower."

"We need to make the best use of the European budget to create better conditions for growth and make Europe more competitive. We need to spend better, not to spend more," they declared.

The European Commission defended its proposal for the 2014-2020 period, which foresees a five-percent rise from the previous seven-year cycle, increasing spending to 1,083 billion euros ($1,552 billion), or 1.11 percent of EU GDP.

The EU's budget chief, Janusz Lewandowski, responded by pointing out that the commission has proposed that Brussels be given the ability to raise its own funds for the budget.

"We are trying to finance more Europe for less money," Lewandowski said.

He also pointed out that the eight-nation coalition did not provide any figures in its position paper, which drew the battlelines in tough negotiations with the commission and the European Parliament that will run until 2012.

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