Schroeder has 'no regrets' about last EU summit

27th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

27 October 2005, HAMPTON COURT, ENGLAND - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's last European Union summit got off to an awkward start after heavy traffic delayed his arrival at the luxurious Hampton Court Palace outside London where the meeting was held.

27 October 2005

HAMPTON COURT, ENGLAND - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's last European Union summit got off to an awkward start after heavy traffic delayed his arrival at the luxurious Hampton Court Palace outside London where the meeting was held.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who hosted the one-day meeting, didn't even wait to greet the outgoing German leader at the Tudor palace entrance - as he did for all the other 24 E.U. leaders.

After briefly waving to reporters, a grim-looking Schroeder hurried through the corridors of the sprawling castle near the River Thames to join already gathered E.U. heads of state and government.

Blair and Schroeder are certainly not the best of friends.

Relations between the two men have been strained over a series of issues including the British leader's support of the Iraq war which Chancellor Schroeder fiercely opposed.

More recently, the struggle between London and Berlin has focused on which economic model the bloc should follow to combat low growth and high unemployment afflicting key members such as Germany and France.

Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac are in favour of retaining the continental social market economy with the German leader frequently railing against what he dubs "Anglo-Saxon" or "American" market economy conditions.

The chancellor did not disappoint in his final remarks to fellow leaders which officials said was not a farewell speech but rather a ringing endorsement of an E.U. with a powerful social welfare component.

"People more and more do not find the E.U. ... as a protective shield against expanding globalisation," warned Schroeder.

In reference to controversial E.U. proposals to throw open competition in the still nationally regulated services sector, he said E.U. leaders must reject freedom for the services sector which would undermine social welfare or environment standards

"We are standing before a fundamental debate in Europe: Should markets and calls for ever-greater liberalisation be the final measure for political action?" said Schroeder.

Answering his own question, the chancellor bluntly told Germany's ZDF TV that Britain's market-liberal economy must never serve as a model for all of Europe.

The social welfare market economic model was the only option for continental Europe, he insisted.

"It boils down to which direction Europe should take. Is it just supposed to be one big market?" he asked.

Not pulling his punches, Schroeder slammed the European Commission and European Court of Justice for, as he put it, engaging in a creeping growth of power at the cost of the nation-state.

"The expansion of European competences is increasingly fuelling doubts over what powers are still held by member states," said Schroeder.

Schroeder was narrowly defeated in last month's German general election. Designated chancellor Angela Merkel is due to be elected on November 22 at the head of a grand coalition of her Christian Democrats with Schroeder's Social Democrats as junior partner.

Standing amid the splendour of Hampton Court's huge park, Schroeder insisted to reporters that he had been delighted to come to England.

"It's a beautiful country," he said with a wave of his hand.

Asked if he felt sad to be attending his last E.U. summit, Schroeder smiled and replied: "No, absolutely not. I don't have any regrets."

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article