British Conservatives call for EU to return powers
02.06.09 @ 14:29
BRUSSELS - British Conservative leader David Cameron has said he would use upcoming EU budget talks to try to negotiate for return of powers to the UK, as his new EU parliament group heads for at least 50 seats in the elections.
"If we had a Conservative government, we would be going into those negotiations with a list of powers we wanted to have returned to the UK," he said on BBC radio's Today programme on Tuesday (2 June) morning.
"There's an important negotiation coming up on the future funding of the EU and I don't want to see us increasing the funding at all, but it gives us enormous leverage in terms of making sure we get a good deal for Britain."
The EU will in 2010 begin talks on how much EU countries will put into the common pot for the 2013 to 2020 budgetary period, with the UK among the leading donors alongside Germany and France.
Mr Cameron, tipped to take over from Labour leader Gordon Brown before June next year, has repeatedly promised to rework the Lisbon treaty, which has already been ratified by the UK but not Ireland, Germany, Poland or the Czech Republic. The treaty envisages deeper consolidation of power in EU structures.
The Conservative leader on Saturday attended a congress in Warsaw together with Poland's right-wing Law and Justice party and the Czech centre-right ODS faction.
The three parties plan in June to unveil a new EU political group together with at least four smaller parties from other EU states. With the Conservatives and ODS riding high in the polls and with Law and Justice creeping up, the three parties alone can count on fielding 50 MEPs.
Speaking in Warsaw, Mr Cameron said the new group will be "a strong centre-right group, which will give an alternative to federalist points of view." ODS leader Mirek Topolanek called for a "flexible, open Europe" based on strong nation states. "The Lisbon treaty is dead," he said.
Some senior Conservative politicians have attacked Mr Cameron for abandoning French and German centre-right parties in the EU parliament EPP-ED group in favour of the new Polish and Czech allies.
"I do not understand a rigid commitment to impotence," Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a UK ambassador to the EU in the 1990s, said in The Guardian.
The Polish and Czech parties could prove tricky bedfellows for the mainstream Tory party. On Sunday, Mr Kaczynski said "a strong Europe must be a Christian Europe" and continued bashing Germany, this time for securing more EU aid for its farmers than Poland gets.
Mr Topolanek has meanwhile been implicated in an Italian sex scandal. Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has banned the publication of pictures allegedly showing topless girls and VIP guests at his mansion in Sardinia. Mr Berlusconi's lawyer told Corriere della Sera that one picture shows Mr Topolanek naked in the garden during a family visit in May 2008.
Commission under fire
Romanian Socialist front-runner Adrian Severin over the weekend accused the EU commission of corruption on the grounds that reports on Romania and Bulgaria's reform process are drafted by its general secretariat and not the justice commissioner.
"Either [justice commissioner] Mr Jacques Barrot is corrupt and then we must solve this problem, or there is some other form of corruption," he said.
The attack is being seen as an attempt to weaken the chances of conservative EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso being appointed for a second term.
German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble has said a directly-elected EU president would help create a European public political sphere and promote deeper integration.
"Europe needs a president who is directly elected by the citizens in a Europe-wide election, like the president of the United States," he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Low turnout fears persist for the EU elections, with 55 percent of French people saying in latest polls they will not vote. Early voting in Finland shows that 12.6 percent of people having already cast their ballot compared to 11.4 percent at the same time last election, however.
The Turkey question
Meanwhile, the debate over Turkey's future entry into the EU is catching fire in Germany and France.
The head of the German Socialists in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has attacked the centre-right CDU party for saying in its EU election campaign that Turkey should stay out, while agreeing in Brussels to the opening of each new chapter in Ankara's membership application.
Mr Schulz has been touted as Germany's potential next EU commissioner. But the German centre-right would favour putting Friedrich Merz, a former CDU party boss, in the job.
French Socialist MEP and former EU minister, Pierre Moscovici, has backed Turkish accession in a joint column in Le Monde.
"To leave Turkey on the margins of Europe, humiliate it by making it dawdle under diverse pretexts, this would be a mistake," he said.
In news of smaller parties, the anti-copyright Swedish Pirate party might get two MEPs according to a Demoskop poll. Almost 22 percent of young people support the movement.
The Green party in Greece is on course to get up to 10 percent of votes, making it the third largest in the country after the conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok factions.
German CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel has in Bavaria asked people to vote for the CDU's sister party, the CSU party, amid fears it might not make the 5 percent threshold to return an MEP.
And Polish anti-Communist hero Lech Walesa has definitively turned his back on the anti-Lisbon treaty Libertas party, pledging instead to campaign for the ruling centre-right Civic Platform.
"Wherever they put me, there I will do my duty for my fatherland, under the leadership of a decent prime minister," he said.