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Urgent

The trial of RFI's Hausa-language correspondent in Cameroon, Ahmed Abba, has been postponed for a month, by which date he will have spent 17 months in prison, because experts had failed to provide a report on the contents of his computers and mobile phone at today's hearing. France Médias Monde again called for his release and the dismissal of complicity with terrorism charges.

Economy

Hollande aims to win Merkel budget backing ahead of key EU summit

media German Chancellor Angela Merkel with French President François Hollande Reuters/Thomas Peter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets François Hollande on Wednesday the day after the French president made clear his opposition to deeper cuts in the European Union’s budget in his first speech to the European parliament. The meeting comes as clashes are predicted at an EU summit starting Thursday.

“National interest is beginning to take priority over European interests,” Hollande told the European parliament, targeting Britain as the chief advocate of “swingeing” cuts even though it means to keep receiving the rebate won by then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

Some [member countries] want cuts, while others, sometimes the same ones, want guarantees. Most countries are affected by parts of the budget and uninterested in those that don't concern them. My position, simply put, is: make cuts, yes, but weaken the economy, no. Without proper resources, the future of European cooperation is at stake.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, under pressure from Euroseceptics inside and outside his Conservative Party, last month angered many European politicians by promising a referendum on EU membership if his party is reelected.

In November Merkel, who also faces domestic pressure over bailouts to Greece and other south European countries, backed Cameron’s bid for a reduction in summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy’s proposed 973-billion-euro budget.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Diplomats predict that he will reduce it to 960 billion euros this week, while promising that countries’ payments will go down from 935 billion to 900 billion euros.

In a letter to EU leaders Wednesday Van Rompuy said it was “becoming urgent” for the budget to be adopted, while European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, some of whose staff are on strike against cutbacks, declared that “further delays will send out a very negative message”.

Hollande, who is sticking by his stance that the EU needs to help reflate the European economy, hopes that Van Rompuy’s compromise will prove sufficient for Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, who backed Cameron in November and that the UK will be forced to accept it.

Hollande’s staff predict that his meeting with Merkel, which will also touch on the French intervention in Mali, will last 15 minutes, while the Germans predict 45 minutes.

The two leaders will be watching the clock. In the evening they plan to go to the friendly between France and Germany at the Stade de France.

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