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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Leaders Butt Heads on Farm Subsidies and Rebates

PARIS -- Reflecting the disarray dominating after last week's failed European Union summit meeting, leaders throughout the Continent unleashed new criticism of one another on Tuesday, promoting their own visions for the future of Europe.

In a sign that France was not ready to compromise on money matters, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Tuesday castigated the British government for demanding a rebate every year from the bloc.

"This British check ... is truly an expense from the Old Regime," de Villepin told a session of the National Assembly.

By contrast, de Villepin defended the billions of dollars in subsidies French farmers receive from the European Union as "a major asset for Europe and for France," and denounced what he called Britain's "groundless accusations" on the subject.

In a post-midnight news conference Friday night after talks on the union's long-term budget failed, French President Jacques Chirac called the farm subsidy system "modern" and "dynamic."

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, however, has branded the farm subsidies an anachronism that sucks much-needed European Union financing from research and development in areas like biotechnology and the promotion of small businesses.

In London on Tuesday, Blair struggled to sound conciliatory. He said he was ready to recognize that Britain's rebate is "an anomaly that has to go."

"I told the French president that I could not explain to Dutch citizens why they should pay more than the French," said Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende in a news conference Friday night. "This is about having a fair system, and this system is not fair."