British Prime Minister Tony Blair was expected to face stern opposition Friday from four Eastern European leaders in his efforts to reduce the European Union's next budget. Blair will meet with the prime ministers of the Visegrad Four group of Eastern European countries, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Blair, who arrived in Budapest late Thursday and had dinner with Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, flew in from Estonia, where he held talks on the budget issue with his three Baltic counterparts.
Like the Visegrad countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also oppose any cuts to the 2007-2013 budget which would eat into the development funds they expected to get when joining the EU 18 months ago. The main stumbling blocks to a budget agreement have been arguments over Britain's budget rebate and the EU's expensive program of agricultural subsidies.
The new EU countries have appealed to the older, richer EU members' sense of solidarity, emphasizing the need to address social and regional disparities within the bloc. Hungary's Gyurcsany warned earlier this week that continuing inequality could ultimately lead to massive migration from the poorer countries in the east of the continent into the richer west, reports the AP. I.L.