Open Europe Blog

Update – 14.10 23/01/13:

Further reactions from Germany. DPA reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will:

“Talk intensively with the United Kingdom about their visions in detail”

German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert added that:

“The EU need the UK and the other way round” and that changes to the UK position will need to be “discussed in Brussels together”.

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The good thing about the debate about the UK’s role in the EU – and Cameron’s fever pitch speech – is that UK journalists are now forced to really read the foreign press. Hence, several of the news outlets are now running “Europe says nein, non, nej, nie” (guess the last two) etc.

The reactions from around Europe have been mixed, with a lot of predictable, and in parts understandable, muttering about “cherry-picking.”

Of all the hundreds of reactions (in itself interesting), there’s one that stands out. This one. From Angela Merkel (via DPA), who said she’s ready to listen to the UK’s wishes, if they’re “fair”:

“Europe also means that one should find fair compromises…Germany and me personally wishes Great Britain to remain an important part and active member of the EU”.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was slightly less positive but still accommodating saying:

“Not everything has to regulated in Brussels and by Brussels, but a policy of raisin-picking will not work”

Though German MEPs were pretty red-faced, others were more understanding. Germany’s Europe Minister for Hessen, Jörg Uwe Hahn warned against bashing Cameron, saying:

“Cameron doesn’t make this statement out of nothing…he reflects the prevalent sentiment in the UK, but also in many other countries of the European Union…the UK is the conscience that we are a decentral confederation of sovereign states based on subsidiarity, and not central federal state…the demand – that competences should not only shift unilaterally from member states to the union, but if necessary should flow back to the member states – is basically not wrong.”

Chair of Germany’s European affairs committee, Gunther Krichbaum, who has form, wasn’t entirely pleased:

“I’m a bit surprised that Great Britain wants to renegotiate the rules. Britain is not a new member state, it did not just join the European Union. It had a say in negotiating all the rules and treaties. If we opened that Pandora’s Box, all the pulling and hauling would start again and we would probably end up in the same spot.”

Other Triple A countries also put forward interesting reactions. From the Netherlands (a country which the UK hopes will follow its lead):

Dutch MP Mark Verheijen, EU spokesman for governing VVD party highlighted some points of agreement between the UK and the Netherlands:

“We are also in favour of a lower budget and less intervention by Brussels [Cameron’s speech] “showed that he wants to tackle this debate with an open attitude”. 

MEP Bas Eickhout (GreenLeft) said on Twitter:

“The positive thing about Cameron’s speech: hopefully there will finally be room for Treaty change: is very much needed, only not in Cameron’s way”

And Finnish Europe Minister Alexander Stubb (who has previously warned that the UK was sidelining itself in Europe) said on Twitter:

“Cameron speech more constructive than expected. Like most of the economic principles. Disagree on deepening”. Adding later, “Cameron speech clarifies things. At least we know what the Conservatives want. They want to stay in the EU. #thespeech #reluctantbride”.

We’ll update with reactions from the Mediterranean – which, as you might expect, have been far less receptive. 

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