Monday

28th Sep 2020

Cameron: 'We sceptics' want a flexible Europe

British Prime Minister Cameron has said his country should stay within the EU and shape decisions but would prefer a "flexible network" rather than the "rigidity of a bloc."

"For years, people who have suggested doing less at European level have been accused of not being committed to a successful European Union. But we sceptics have a vital point. We should look sceptically at grand plans and utopian visions," David Cameron said in a foreign policy speech on Monday (14 November).

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Making again the case for Britain to stay within the EU and shape decisions, he also laid out a vision of a looser, 'network'-type of Union of which he would like to be part: "One with the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a bloc – whose institutions help by connecting and strengthening its members to thrive in a vibrant world, rather than holding them back."

"Leaving the EU is not in our national interest," he said, in reference to demands by a considerable minority of his party to hold a referendum on leaving the EU.

"Outside, we would end up like Norway, subject to every rule for the single market made in Brussels but unable to shape those rules," he insisted.

Britain has in recent months teamed up with Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and the other six non-euro countries in regularly pressing for economic decisions to be taken at the level of the full 27 EU member states, not just by the 17 members of the eurozone.

But as France is pushing for its own vision of 'two-speed Europe', blaming the current euro-crisis on enlargement, members in central and eastern Europe feel offended and "patronised", as one high-ranking Polish diplomat put it.

"Thanks to enlargement, the market for western countries increased hugely. Most new member states do not have financial problems. We carried out heroic reforms - look at Latvia, Estonia - and without rioting. To blame us for the imprudent lending within the eurozone is offensive nonsense," the source said.

While Britain has opted out of the euro and has no plans to join the currency one day, easterners are bound by their accession treaties to adopt the euro when they meet all the economic conditions. "Do not laugh, we still want to join the euro," Romania's president told journalists last week.

Slovakia, Slovenia and Estonia are already members and Latvia is eager to join.

"Unlike Britain, we will live by those principles one day. So we should be part of the discussion," the Polish diplomat said.

"We want decisions to be made at 27 and through EU institutions. People go and have affairs on the side, but we want them to stick to the marriage vows," the source said.

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With France's borrowing costs on the up and with its prized triple-A rating under threat, French leader Nicolas Sarkozy is publicly advocating a fast-lane Europe for 'core' euro-countries.

Opinion

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The UK premier will have to bring home some very definite commitments from Brussels to make it up for the promised referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and silence his eurosceptic critics, writes Helen Szamuely.

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