BRUSSELS — European leaders are set for another clash over the EU budget at a two-day summit starting Thursday, with the only certainty being that any deal will include serious spending cuts.
Buoyed by hopes that the worst of the debt crisis is over, the meeting beginning at 1400 GMT could have a major impact for years to come if big contributors such as Germany and Britain win the day with a determined push to rein in funding.
A special November summit on the 2014-20 budget ended in a stand-off between those seeking cuts at a time of austerity and others, such as France and Italy who championed continued investment in areas essential for growth in Europe's faltering economy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to Paris later Wednesday for talks with French President Francois Hollande in a final effort to hammer out a deal, with summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy's latest compromise figures holding the key.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, initially proposed a 5.0 percent increase to above one trillion euros for the 2014-2020 budget.