BRUSSELS - A summit of the European Union's 27 national leaders, charged with agreeing on a long-term budget for the bloc, broke up Friday afternoon without being able to reach a deal.
Coming just days after the 17 eurogroup finance ministers failed, yet again, to agree on the conditions for releasing badly needed bailout money for Greece, the failure of the two-day summit raises questions about how the bloc makes important decisions. In most cases, unanimity is required, meaning that each country wields veto power.
The EU's top officials, who put in long hours trying to soften up the national leaders individually before putting them together in the same meeting room, tried to put a brave face on the budget deadlock.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who presides over the summits, said the "constructive discussions" at the summit meant an agreement could be reached early next year. He added that the national leaders had instructed him and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to continue working toward consensus over the coming weeks.
Barroso, too, called the talks constructive. But he added, "we are not yet at the point of reaching consensus."