not good enough,'' Cameron told reporters after the summit broke up.
"We haven't got the deal we wanted but we've stopped what would have been an unacceptable deal,'' he said. “And in European terms I think that goes down as progress.''
The EU budget funds primarily programs to help farming and spur growth in the bloc's less developed countries. In financial terms, the budget amounts to only about 1 percent of the EU's gross domestic product, but carries great political significance as it lays bare the balance of power between the bloc's members.
The bloc found itself divided, notably between richer countries that wanted to contain their contributions to the common budget at a time of economic malaise, and poorer ones that rely on EU money for development aid and economic investment.
While Cameron and some other leaders demanded restraint, French President Francois Hollande wanted the budget to keep paying subsidies for farming and development programs.
A number of poorer nations, which are net recipients of EU budget money, argued that a robust budget was good for all countries.
A revised proposal given to the leaders late Thursday by Van Rompuy did little to appease either side. It kept the same total of (euro) 972 billion ($1.25 trillion) in states' commitments as his first proposal – (euro) 21 billion less than the 2007-2013 budget – but it shifted some money away from investment projects toward aid for farming and development.
Hollande said Van Rompuy's proposal was reasonable. “We want a consistent budget that funds EU policies,'' Hollande said.
Further cuts, the French president said, would not be welcome.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the strong differences of opinion were no cause for alarm – and she wasn't taking sides in the argument between those who want more spending and those who want less.
“We should be able to bridge those differences,'' she said. “We have a reached a good basis to continue our work.''
“Our bilateral talks showed there is sufficient ground to reach agreement,'' she said.
There is no set deadline for a deal, but the closer it gets to 2014, the tougher it will be for a smooth introduction of new programs. If there is no deal up to 2014, there would be a rollover of the 2013 budget plus a 2 percent increase accounting for inflation.