Hollande aims to win Merkel budget backing ahead of key EU summit
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets François Hollande on Wednesday the day after the French president made clear his opposition to deeper cuts in the European Union’s budget in his first speech to the European parliament. The meeting comes as clashes are predicted at an EU summit starting Thursday.
“National interest is beginning to take priority over European interests,” Hollande told the European parliament, targeting Britain as the chief advocate of “swingeing” cuts even though it means to keep receiving the rebate won by then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, under pressure from Euroseceptics inside and outside his Conservative Party, last month angered many European politicians by promising a referendum on EU membership if his party is reelected.
In November Merkel, who also faces domestic pressure over bailouts to Greece and other south European countries, backed Cameron’s bid for a reduction in summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy’s proposed 973-billion-euro budget.
Diplomats predict that he will reduce it to 960 billion euros this week, while promising that countries’ payments will go down from 935 billion to 900 billion euros.
In a letter to EU leaders Wednesday Van Rompuy said it was “becoming urgent” for the budget to be adopted, while European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, some of whose staff are on strike against cutbacks, declared that “further delays will send out a very negative message”.
Hollande, who is sticking by his stance that the EU needs to help reflate the European economy, hopes that Van Rompuy’s compromise will prove sufficient for Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, who backed Cameron in November and that the UK will be forced to accept it.
Hollande’s staff predict that his meeting with Merkel, which will also touch on the French intervention in Mali, will last 15 minutes, while the Germans predict 45 minutes.
The two leaders will be watching the clock. In the evening they plan to go to the friendly between France and Germany at the Stade de France.