Negotiations to thrash out the European Union\'s next seven-year budget will be \"very difficult\", German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, warning that it may take time to reach a deal. \"We can\'t say yet whether the talks will succeed. I only know that the negotiations will be very difficult,\" Merkel said in her weekly podcast broadcast on her website. The comments came as EU leaders are preparing to meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for a second attempt at finding a deal on the 27-nation bloc\'s 2014-2020, trillion-euro budget after failing to clinch an agreement at a summit in November. Merkel, who is seeking a third term in office this year, said she \"would do everything to reach an agreement\". But Merkel added that Germany, one of the largest net contributors to the EU budget, had its own interests to defend in the discussions, and she argued for measures that would make the bloc \"more competitive and efficient\". The chancellor, who already met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Berlin on Thursday, is also set to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday in preparation for the EU summit. In November, EU President Herman Van Rompuy proposed a budget of 973 billion euros, or just over one percent of EU gross domestic product. But European leaders were unable to resolve differences about demands for cuts in the budget by some member states and how spending cuts should be split across different European policies.