Blair meets Barroso over looming EU crisis

20th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, May 20 (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday received European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the European Union constitution and the status of Britain's annual EU budget rebate, officials said.

LONDON, May 20 (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday received European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the European Union constitution and the status of Britain's annual EU budget rebate, officials said.  

Blair and Barroso met at the prime minister's country estate outside London, focusing on the EU agenda and Britain's priorities for its presidency of the 25-nation body, which begins on July 1, a Blair spokeswoman said.  

The row over demands for Britain to give up its rebate - worth some GBP 3 billion (EUR 4.4 billion, USD 5.5 billion) a year - was mentioned "in general terms" only, but was expected to be discussed further at a gathering of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Sunday, she said.  

The spokeswoman said the question of France's May 29 referendum on the European constitution arose "as part of a wider discussion", but she said Blair was not speculating on the outcome of the vote.  

The British government has declined to rule out dropping its own plans to hold a referendum on the constitution early next year if French or Dutch voters reject the document in the next two weeks.  

The constitution is designed to streamline the workings of the enlarged European Union.  

The stakes surrounding the constitution are high for Blair, who began serving a third and final term as premier after his Labour Party won the May 5 general elections, albeit with a slimmer parliamentary majority.  

Blair would leave on a high note if the referendum passes in Britain - where voters are notoriously sceptical about deeper ties with Europe - but he may be under more pressure to step down early if it is rejected.  

However, rejection by other countries may allow Blair to avoid holding any poll at all.  

At the same time, analysts say that a "no" vote in any of the 25 EU member states - all of which must approve the constitution for it to take effect - would put Blair in the position of having to keep Europe afloat during Britain's EU presidency.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article