EU officials said that despite the failure of this week’s talks it should be possible to get a deal next week. Despite 12 hours of negotiations between MEPs and national governments this week, the talks broke off with no agreement late on Tuesday night (21 November). One EU official said that the presidency had been a “total disaster” while others commented that the Finns were “badly prepared” and “obsessed” with getting other countries to back their call to slash 1,700 Commission posts. The presidency was trying to broker an agreement between EU governments and MEPs on a budget for payments of around €114 billion for next year. But Finnish Finance Minister Ulla-Maj Wideroos failed to get majority support for the presidency’s position after Spain, Italy and Poland, with the support of four other countries, refused to sign up to a declaration on improving productivity in the EU institutions. According to the Commission, this would have meant cutting 1,700 jobs, the equivalent of three directorates-general, as only half of retiring staff would be replaced. “They [the Finns] tried to bulldoze the [productivity declaration] through. But they wasted a lot of time which could have been dedicated to negotiating the Common Foreign and Security Policy part,” one official said. Without a common position, Wideroos lacked credibility in negotiating with the MEPs’ delegation, led by Polish centre-right member Janusz Lewandowski, chairman of the budgets committee. The MEPs decided to walk out of talks anyway in response to what they saw as impossible demands from the presidency to be precise about having a greater say over Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) spending. There is concern over the cost of the planned EU security mission for Kosovo next year, estimated to cost between €100 and 150 million. The Parliament says it has not had enough information about the mission. MEPs have been insisting that they should be consulted more over appointments of CFSP special representatives and were threatening to withhold around half of the €159m the Council had requested for CFSP next year. But when Wideroos insisted on a letter setting out exactly what they were asking for in return, the MEPs said there was no point negotiating further because they could not deliver what the Finns were asking. “[James] Elles can’t do Elmar Brok’s job,” said one official, referring to the UK centre-right MEP who has drawn up Parliament’s position on the 2007 budget and the German centre-right MEP who is chairman of the foreign affairs committee. An EU diplomat said that “on CFSP the MEPs were badly prepared”.