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EU agrees on budget

European Union leaders agreed on a new seven-year budget Saturday morning, after U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair gave in to pressure to pump more financial aid to countries in Eastern Europe. The 25-nation EU set an €862.4 billion budget for 2007 through 2013, overcoming a feud between Blair and French President Jacques Chirac that had threatened to cut short funds for the 10 poorer countries that joined last year. The budget is "an investment in those central and eastern European economies, to help them grow, to help them develop," Blair told a Brussels news conference after chairing an 18-hour negotiating marathon that ended early Saturday.
Hungary will receive three and a half times more funds from the European Union after 2007 than at present, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány said later on Saturday. In terms of EU funds per capita, Hungary will be the second country among the 25 members of the EU, he said. The amount of money to become available to Hungary between 2007 and 2013 represents half of the total of Hungary's national debt. Compared to the original British proposal, Hungary will receive €1 billion more, which is the largest increase among all new EU members, the prime minister said.