SPD Euro MPs reject compromise with Britain

SPD Euro MPs reject compromise with Britain
David Cameron will have his work cut out convincing other Europeans of the need for EU reform. Photo: DPA
German Social Democratic Party (SPD) MEP Jo Leinen told The Local on Monday he was unhappy with comments from European Parliament (EP) President Martin Schulz, who suggested that Britain should be allowed to opt out of the call to work towards "ever closer union" among EU countries.

“The only country that has opted out of European integration with special rules in the past decades has been Great Britain,” Schulz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

“We would only be recognizing what has been true for London for a long time.”

But Social Democratic MEP Jo Leinen told The Local that Schulz's fellow SPD members saw things differently.

“European integration is an idea that's been there from the very beginning – that it's more than an economic space, but also a political community,” Leinen said.

“Anyone who wants to get rid of that doesn't want to belong to a political community, but a single market… Many like me aren't ready to throw the idea of European community overboard.”

Leinen, a member of the EP's Foreign Affairs, Environment and Constitutional Affairs committees, also praised Chancellor Angela Merkel's handling of her meeting with UK Prime Minister David Cameron last week.

“Merkel was smarter [than Schulz] to say that we're happy to help, but we need to know the substance of the demands before we decide what our red lines are, before we co-operate.”

He added that while German and UK interests are similar, with the two countries often forming the core of a northern European voting bloc to counterbalance the likes of France, Spain and Italy, the UK should take heed of Germany's deeply ingrained sense of belonging to Europe.

“Germany has the European idea almost in its Constitution,“ Leinen said. “That's what has guided 60 years of German European politics.”

While there were certainly reforms to be made so that the EU becomes more competitive and effective, Social Democrats wouldn't abandon their political ideals just to keep Britain in, he said.

“We need a sense of compromise on both sides, a sense of reality from London and not just dreams of a 'Commonwealth of Europe'. Great Britain won't get anything given away.”

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