Auteur: | By Richard Carter
The UK must be prepared to give up its annual rebate from the EU budget - worth 4.6 billion euro - according to Gerrit Zalm, Dutch finance minister and head of the EU finance ministers' Council.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Zalm said, "Even in Britain people can understand if countries are in the same position but get different treatment, that is something which can't be prolonged for ever".
The UK secured the rebate in 1984 arguing that it received too little funding from the EU budget, because of its relatively low dependence on farm support.
But with enlargement and the gradual decline in EU farming handouts, the rebate has come increasingly under fire.
The European Commission has proposed that the special circumstances for the UK be widened into a general rebate for all member states paying more into the EU pot than they receive. The proposals were immediately branded "ludicrous" by UK diplomats.
Small battles in wider war
The rebate issue - which will arise as part of a wider discussion on the EU's budget from 2007-2013 by finance ministers in the Hague tomorrow - is one of many issues that could cause headaches in agreeing the new EU budget.
The Spanish government is expected to lobby for their regions to continue receiving EU funds for as long as possible.
Poorer regions in Spain will lose EU cohesion funding from 2007 onwards because money will go instead to even poorer regions in the new member states.
However, the funding will not be removed immediately but "phased out" over a period of time. And during a meeting with Germany and France, Spain will press for this "phasing out" period to last as long as possible, according to German business paper Handelsblatt.