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German Chancellor Angela Merkel told EU lawmakers Wednesday that Europe's nations must integrate more and allow Brussels to police national budgets when necessary if the bloc is to maintain unity and prosperity.
"Trust in the EU needs to be re-won," Merkel said in a speech at the European parliament.
"We will win together ... that is my goal," she said, calling on EU leaders to agree radical moves at a December 13-14 summit to make the eurozone currency union at the heart of the bloc function better.
Merkel reiterated that Economic and Monetary Union, the core policy laying down common rules and responsibilities, needs to be strengthened.
The union needed a "more common economic policy ... it has not been binding enough," she said, citing the ills caused by the debt crisis which has undermined growth and sent unemployment soaring to record levels in the bloc.
It might even be necessary to encroach on areas such as taxation and labour laws which traditionally have been jealously guarded by member states as purely national concerns, Merkel said.
The chancellor said she recognised the problem and, "obviously here we have to be cautious, (to) strike sensible balance," but added that she "will be supporting an ambitious plan of action" at the December summit.
She said market policies needed to become "more common" while a new pan-EU bank supervisory body with the power to intervene so as avoid risks to the continent's financial system had to be "effective" to make a difference.
Budgets across member state boundaries also had to be determined with a one-for-all outlook, she said, adding: "I could imagine going further with proper rights to intervene" if the rules are not adhered to.
She told the parliament that Germany would not forget its past and stressed that the EU's preservation of basic freedoms was one of its greatest attributes, meriting the Nobel Peace Prize awarded last month.
The prize was "a very valuable signal to the world," she said, adding that her host, Parliament head Martin Schulz would go to Oslo next month to accept the award, accompanied by EU head Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and several political leaders such as herself.
Leaders of the main parliamentary groups were in turn critical or respectful of Merkel's address but she reacted most forcefully to a call by a leading British eurosceptic lawmaker for an "amicable divorce" between London and Brussels.
"I want to have a strong UK in the EU, let me make that absolutely clear," Merkel said in reply to MEP Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party.
Just hours before Merkel was due to hold expected tough talks in London on the bloc's hotly contested 2014-20 budget, Farage said Merkel should tell British Prime Minister David Cameron that the time had come for "a simple amicable divorce."
Feeling in the UK was completely against the tide of the greater EU integration touted by the German leader, he said.
"I cannot imagine that the UK would not be part of Europe," Merkel retorted, recalling Britain's role in ending Nazi rule in Germany in 1945.
"I think it is also good for the UK to be in Europe," the chancellor said, adding that she would do "everything" to ensure this is the case.
© 2012 AFP
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