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Surprise: Council running late

Thursday 22 November 2012
The summit of EU leaders is running about two hours behind schedule; a debate of the European Council with Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, originally scheduled for 8:00pm, has not yet begun. In fact, the 'confessionals' - meetings between Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and each of the 27 member states' leaders, are still underway, some three hours after they were supposed to end. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, and François Hollande, France's president, are up next. 

In the run-up to the summit, and again during the day, several leaders have tried to dampen expectations. "It's possible that we need another stage" to strike a deal, Merkel said, and her diplomats were briefing that an agreement in February (the next scheduled European Council) or March would still allow all required legislation to be put in place before the start of 2014, when the next MFF is supposed to kick in. 

Werner Faymann, Austria's chancellor, has also said this week that he "would not be surprised" if the talks "drag on into February or March". 

It might all go fairly quickly at the end of the first plenary session, diplomats here suggest - with Van Rompuy wrapping up the session by distributing a new compromise proposal and sending the leaders off to their hotel rooms for a few hours of sleep so that real negotiations can take place tomorrow. 


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