BERLIN (AP) _ Germany has been prodding its European Union partners to commit themselves to austerity, so that the EU can finance the entry of a dozen newcomers.

But as the 15 EU leaders begin two days of meetings today in the German capital, divisions remained on how to curb spending from 2000 to 2006.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who also is the summit host, will have a hard time keeping minds focused on money due to the ongoing crisis in Kosovo. The EU leaders planned crisis negotiations over Kosovo during lunch today.

The summit also opens in a power vacuum after the entire 20-member European Commission quit last week following a scathing report into fraud, nepotism and mismanagement at the EU executive body.

The EU governments have been trying for almost two years to agree on ways to prevent a spending increase when they accept 12 newcomers, mostly east European neighbors.

Schroeder urged his 14 colleagues to cut a deal on EU spending based on ``the principle of strict budgetary discipline, solidarity (and) a fair sharing of the burden.''

The EU budget wrangle is over a complex package of reforms, known as ``Agenda 2000,'' to overhaul the EU's $92.3 billion annual budget to make expansion possible.

Another contentious issue is demands by Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden _ which pay more into the EU then they get back _ to curb their membership fees.