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Merkel visits Cameron for EU talks

Published: 05 Nov 2012 06:53 GMT+01:00

The two-leg dash will see Merkel, at the helm of Europe's top economy, address the European Parliament against the backdrop of a debate over the current and future shape of the EU as it battles severe financial turbulence.

After reportedly predicting Saturday it would take "five years or more" to overcome the euro crisis, Merkel will lay out to deputies "her thoughts on the further development of the Economic and Monetary Union," her spokesman has said.

She will later travel to London for a working dinner with Cameron amid tension over the EU's long-term budget before a summit this month and a week after he suffered a parliamentary defeat over the issue.

Both stops are expected to provide Merkel an opportunity to highlight her credo – that the EU must work towards more integration especially on member states' budgetary issues as a way out of its crisis.

But Germany's push for ever-greater coordination may well fall on deaf ears during her visit to Britain, which is a member of the EU but is outside the 17-nation eurozone.

"The coalition government is committed to Britain playing a leading role in the EU but I must also be frank: public disillusionment with the EU in our country is the deepest it has ever been," Foreign Secretary William Hague told a foreign policy forum in Berlin last month.

His comments contrasted sharply with remarks by his German counterpart who said Berlin's drive for a fiscal union imposing budgetary discipline – which Britain has declined to join, and EU plans for a banking union were part of a crucial integration process that would benefit all.

The "disillusionment" translated last week into a defeat for Cameron when rebels from his Conservative party defied him by passing a motion urging him to insist on a real-terms cut in the EU's 2014-2020 budget.

Cameron says that a seven-year EU budget freeze in real terms is the best Britain can realistically expect, as most member states support a boost.

Merkel said after talks with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny last week that Germany would do "everything in its power to try to achieve a solution" in the negotiations on the budget.

A summit is due to be held on November 22 and 23 to hash out a deal.

"We are in a phase of intensive discussions, that is one of the reasons why [Merkel] is travelling to London to see Mr Cameron for talks," spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

"Our views on the long-term financial planning and those laid out in recent weeks by the British government aren't that far apart," he said.

Olaf Boehnke, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Merkel's trip to London "may be interpreted as a wake-up call for the British" over the risks of distancing themselves from the EU.

Britain's relationship with Europe provoked EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Janusz Lewandowski to suggest in Friday's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Britain faced a choice.

"Either it [Britain] sees its long-term future in the European Union, or this isn't the case," he said.

And the head of the Greens party in the European Parliament Daniel Cohn-Bendit has even called for a referendum in Britain to decide whether it "becomes the 51st state of the United States" or if it is part of the EU.

In Berlin however the tone remains more conciliatory. Britain is "a member of the European Union that we hold in high regard," Seibert stressed recently, citing its free trade, entrepreneurship and economy.

AFP/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

10:04 November 5, 2012 by sonriete
We can always count on Daniel Cohn-Bendit to make Inflammatory statements that make solutions more difficult to arrive at, as if this weren't painfully difficult to begin with.

No serious person anywhere thinks the UK has any interest or prospect of becoming the 51st US State.

There is a real possibility though of the UK and several other North European States either leaving or declining to join the EU, and it could well be that those states might join NAFTA rather than the EU, along with Canada, the US and Mexico, this organ preserves national sovrienety as well as provides a common market in goods and services.

In this model NAFTA would become a North Atlantic Free Trade Association, rather than a North American Free Trade Association.

Frankly I see it as in the interest of wealthier EU states to negotiate seriously with the British so as to not see this happen, it would certainly not be in the EU's interest and yet it seems the aggressiveness of the pro integration camp tis forcing this to be the most practical solution.
11:30 November 5, 2012 by ChrisRea
Good comment, sonriete! Balanced and carefully written. Let's see what the result of the meeting will be.
12:58 November 5, 2012 by raandy
sonriete very interesting and an excellent point.

If Canada, Australia, New Zeeland, UK, Mexico,US and other Nations established free trade with the eventual intent to provide security cooperation with the view to end NATO ,NAFTA and participation in EU defense initiatives.

I think NAFTA would be more benifical to the UK especially when you consider that the United States is the largest foreign investor in Britain and Britain is the largest foreign investor in the United States, than a regional protectionist trading bloc like the European Union which in many cases does not consider Britain's Banking establishments as part of Europe.

True the US would most likely dominate this as Germany has dominated the EU.

Actually a pointless argument as this is not going to happen. But this is a good issue to ponder.
13:29 November 5, 2012 by sonriete
Randy, I don't see why anyone would want to end NATO and expand NAFTA into the security realm, I think the fact that NAFTA begins and ends with free trade in goods and services is a big part of its allure to those who do not wish to pool sovrienety . It's worked quite well in North America since 1986 as it is hugely increasing trade and prosperity for its members,

All of the likely members of NAFTA on this side of the Atlantic are already members of NATO and seem quite happy with it.
13:55 November 5, 2012 by raandy
sonriete my rant was more to end both NAFTA and NATO, in the future as there are to many apposing view points to the org. and some members do not pull their fair share when it comes to support. I believe the origin of NATO was to counter the Soviet and eastern Bloc nations, many of who now are nato members, the same security concerns have changed.

I support the EU maintaing it's own defense deterrent based on its concerns.True many members are happy with NATO especially those that are under its protection all the while giving very little in man power or financial support., It would seem better if members in the free trading zones many of which are presently NATO members were to provide their own security.

Its only an opinion,times and the world has changed a great deal since the fall of communism along with security needs.

NAFTA would have to change, in the sense that it no longer represents North America only. Like I said it is only an opinion.
14:10 November 5, 2012 by sonriete
The big problem for Europe in ending NATO, as I see it is that Europe spends so little on defense and the Americans so much.

The Americans spent $711 Billion on defense last year, according to EU Observer, much of it to defend Europe, where would the money come from to replace this, especially since almost all European countries are running big deficits while at the same time shrinking their defense budgets?
14:29 November 5, 2012 by raandy
sonriete

Thats my point, America can no longer afford to support the EU defense, the US is also undergoing difficult times. Europe needed that support in the days of the Warsaw Pact but this is no loner an issue.

It is time they foot the cost of their own defense as their concerns are no loner always in line with the US, alliances with the EU for sure. The concerns in the East are out weighing the concerns in the west and much of that 711 billion is needed there more than here.
15:37 November 5, 2012 by sonriete
I totally agree with the above, I think everyone agrees NATO is a relic from the cold war days

But I doubt any initiative will come from the European side, since while the Americans can be overbearing, from a European perspective, why not just let them keep paying?

Some of what we see now is downright ironic, Germany phasing out all of the nuclear plants that provide cheap energy which allows industry to thrive, while at the same time American nuclear weapons, whose only purpose is mass destruction continuing to be based on German soil. with no end in sight.

What can one say, I suppose that is the price of having someone else pay for much of your defense.
15:45 November 5, 2012 by ChrisRea
"America can no longer afford to support the EU defense" - oh, I thought that in the last decade and so NATO focused its efforts in Afghanistan, as a result of US invoking Article 5 after the September 11 attacks. So it is not true that the other NATO members are sending troops in Afghanistan to fight the Talibans that threaten US? Against who is Europe supposedly to be defended?
16:09 November 5, 2012 by sonriete
I would like to think nobody would threaten Europe, but why is Vladimir Putin tripling his "defense" budget and upgrading his nuclear weapons?

I would hope only because of the big border he shares with China, who are also hugely increasing "defense" spending, but how are we to read his mind? He is certainly no democrat, if you don't believe me, ask Bashar Al Assad,
16:27 November 5, 2012 by ChrisRea
"why is Vladimir Putin tripling his defense budget" - hmm, maybe it has something to do with attitudes like the one recently expressed by US presidential candidate Romney (who speaks of Russia as a "geopolitical foe" of the US)?

Did you mentioned Assad because NATO is/might be used to protect the traditional US protegee, Israel, against him?
17:03 November 5, 2012 by sonriete
no, Assad came to my mind because he is so clearly an undemocratic leader being propped up by Russia.

I suppose you could saty the same of the gulf states and the USA though.
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