France and Germany snub Cameron on EU law review
By Honor Mahony
UK Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to get other member states to participate in a general review of EU laws has suffered an embarrassing rebuff from Paris and Berlin.
France and Germany have refused to take part in Cameron's much-publicised examination of whether some EU powers should be returned to member states, reports the Financial Times.
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The paper notes that Paris and Berlin consulted with one another on the issue before concluding that the exercise - known as the "balance of competences" - was more to serve Britain's domestic political interests.
Several other member states are also not taking part in the survey, although Italy and Sweden are among those that have answered London's questionnaire.
The snub comes even though London sent letters to each of the 26 other EU capitals explaining the objective of the exercise and British diplomats stressed that its approach would be even-handed.
The review is the cornerstone of London's EU policy, as Cameron attempts to have an objective assessment of what in the UK is an emotive political issue - where to draw the line between national and EU powers.
"We have launched our balance of competences review to give us an informed and objective analysis of where the EU helps and where it hampers,” he said earlier this year.
He wants to use the results to renegotiate the terms of London's EU membership, something that would eventually form the basis of a referendum in 2017 on whether to remain in the club.
However, most other governments have indicated extreme reluctance to re-open the EU treaties and it is unclear whether Cameron has enough political sympathy among his EU partners to engineer a one-off deal for Britain.
The first part of the review, to be published before summer, will cover the single market, health, development and foreign policy. The entire review is expected to be finished by autumn next year.
In the meantime, with an eye on the 2015 UK election, Cameron has been seeking to thwart the growing popularity of the right-wing and eurosceptic UK Independence Party (Ukip).
Last week he gave a speech in which he pledged to put an end to benefit tourism and the "something-for-nothing" culture among EU migrants.
The talk came amid increasingly heated debate in tabloid newspapers about "floods" of Bulgarians and Romanians coming to Britain when labour restrictions are lifted at the end of this year.
Brussels has reacted strongly to the rhetoric. EU social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor said: "There is a serious risk of pandering to knee-jerk xenophobia."
"Blaming poor people or migrants for hardships at the time of economic crisis is not entirely unknown, but it is not intelligent politics in my view," he told the Observer newspaper.