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4th Mar 2024

Merkel in veiled attack against UK Tories ahead of elections

  • "France admires you... France wants to resemble you in [your] excellence," Mr Sarkozy (l) told his German audience (Photo: Consilium)

German chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday (10 May) made an indirect attack on Britain's main opposition Conservative Party, which is currently leading in the polls ahead of the local and European elections in the UK.

"We refuse to stretch out our hand to those who oppose the Lisbon Treaty… that allows the entry of new members [in the EU], but who at the same time talk about enlargement," Ms Merkel said in Berlin at a campaign meeting for the June European elections attended by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

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"Those who want more [Europe] must cooperate," she told young politicians from her conservative CDU party.

Ms Merkel did not specify to whom her comments were addressed, but they were largely understood as targeting the British Conservatives and their leader, David Cameron.

The Conservatives are opposed to the Lisbon Treaty and have said that if elected, they would call a referendum on the document – although it has already been ratified by the British parliament. They have made this point a central element of their pre-election campaign.

At the same time, the Tories favour Turkey's entry into the EU, opposed by both Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy.

A French minister present at the event told French news agency AFP that the chancellor's comments were indeed aimed at Mr Cameron, whose euroscepticism is "impressive."

The UK Tories – who in March said they would leave the EPP-ED, the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament of which both Mr Sarkozy's UMP and Ms Merkel's CDU are members, to form a new political grouping – are predicted to come out top in the upcoming local and European elections in Britain on 4 June.

A BPIX/Mail on Sunday survey put them on 45 percent, way ahead of the governing Labour Party – on 23 percent.

The Conservatives are also widely expected to win Britain's next general election, due in 2010. But with prime minister Gordon Brown's popularity plunging early elections may be called.

Merkel and Sarkozy united

The French and German centre-right leaders held the Berlin meeting to show mutual support ahead of the June elections.

It was the first time a French politician has campaigned in Germany ahead of an election, with Ms Merkel expected to pay a return visit to France before the end of the month, AFP reports.

The Franco-German friendship is "the most precious treasure for Europe and for the whole world," said Mr Sarkozy.

For her part, Ms Merkel stressed that "France and Germany are the engine of Europe."

The two politicians, whose personal relationship is said to be cool, reaffirmed a common vision of Europe and stressed the need for the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified.

"Angela Merkel is right," Mr Sarkozy said. "With Angela Merkel we want a Europe with institutions worthy of the name."

"Europe cannot keep changing presidents every six months [and] agreeing on the minimum, while the world expects it to agree on the maximum," he added.

Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy also repeated their opposition to further EU enlargement, in particular to Turkey.

"We cannot take in everyone in Europe as a full member," said Ms Merkel.

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