Schroeder blames Britain forfailure of crunch EU summit

20th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

20 June 2005, BRUSSELS - Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Saturday accused other European Union leaders of wanting to be "trapped in the past" while French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed bitter disappointment over the failed EU summit that broke up in the early hours of Saturday in Brussels."Europe is divided," Straw told a radio interviewer on Saturday. "It is essentially a division between whether you want a European Union that is able to cope with the

20 June 2005

BRUSSELS - Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Saturday accused other European Union leaders of wanting to be "trapped in the past" while French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed bitter disappointment over the failed EU summit that broke up in the early hours of Saturday in Brussels.

"Europe is divided," Straw told a radio interviewer on Saturday. "It is essentially a division between whether you want a European Union that is able to cope with the future or whether you want a European Union that is trapped in the past."

Leaders failed to agree on a budget deal seen as a test of the bloc's power to function after the rejection of the EU constitution by French and Dutch voters.

A visibly drained Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country is the current president of the 25-nation bloc, said after the 15-hour session that led to nothing: "We are in deep crisis. We have failed."

Schroeder blamed the failure on the hardline stance taken by Britain, which refused to accept any changes in its EUR 4.6 billion annual budget rebate, and the Netherlands, which demanded a radical cut in its contribution to EU coffers.

But British Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed that five countries - Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Spain - had all rejected the new financial package, which must be approved by all the EU states.

The ten mainly eastern European newcomers to the EU offered to cut their funding in a last-ditch attempt to salvage a deal. But the offer was not taken up - which, said Juncker, only made matters worse.

"When I heard one after the other, all the new member countries, each poorer than the other, say that in the interest of reaching an agreement they would be ready to renounce some of their financial demands, I was ashamed," he said.

Schroeder bitterly remarked of the new members' offer: "That was a spark - and this spark will ignite," he said.

Chirac led recriminations after Blair twice rejected compromise proposals aimed at securing a deal. Chirac bitterly told reporters that Britain's behaviour was "pathetic", adding he was shocked by the "arrogance of several rich countries" in the talks.

Schroeder said the summit failed because of the "totally unaccepting attitude" of Britain and the Netherlands.

Blair had insisted in the marathon session that any review of London's budget rebate, won in 1984, must go hand-in-hand with cutbacks in agricultural subsidies, which devour 40 percent of the EU's EUR 100 billion annual budget.

France, which gets the lion's share of such benefits, refused to make any changes in farm expenditures set in 2002 for a period running until 2013.

Blair said the European Union needed a thorough debate on where its funding should go in the 21st century and called for reorienting money toward biotechnology, high-tech and education.

The collapse of the budget talks came a day after EU leaders agreed to scrap a November 2006 deadline for winning a final ratification of the bloc's constitution in response to the French and Dutch 'no' votes three weeks ago.

Juncker said the target date for finalizing the ratification was now moved back to 2007.

Agreement on the budget had been promoted by Juncker as a symbolic goal in proving the European Union was able to take political decisions despite the defeat of the constitution.

But the gamble failed to pay off, and Blair will take over the EU presidency in July with both a constitutional crisis and turmoil over the bloc's budget looming large over his six-month term.

DPA

Subject: German news

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