Britain's vision for EU notshared by majority: Colonna

20th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 20 (AFP) - Britain's vision for the European Union is not that of most of the bloc's 25 members, France said on Monday, deepening a dispute between the two nations that hit crisis point during an EU summit last week.

PARIS, June 20 (AFP) - Britain's vision for the European Union is not that of most of the bloc's 25 members, France said on Monday, deepening a dispute between the two nations that hit crisis point during an EU summit last week.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair "must act as president of the union by taking into account the views of everybody," French European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna told France 2 television.

"The British vision is not shared by the majority of European countries," she asserted.

France and Britain have each been striving to present themselves as the EU's representative leader since the Brussels summit collapsed amid acrimony between French President Jacques Chirac and Blair over EU budget negotiations.

Britain takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency from July 1.

"Great Britain must assume its responsibilities by taking into account what the majority of Europeans want," Colonna said. "If it doesn't do that, we will tell it to do so."

The junior foreign minister, who used to be Chirac's spokeswoman, said the British government led only a minority of EU countries at the summit.

At the meeting, Chirac and most of the bloc pushed for Britain to give up a jealously-held EUR 5 billion rebate that it is alone in getting from the EU budget, while Blair, backed by the Netherlands, argued for a revision of the EU agricultural subsidies system which gives French farmers EUR 8 billion a year.

Neither gave ground, and the summit collapsed, with Chirac accusing Blair of stubbornness, while Blair said he refused to accept Chirac as an unofficial leader of the European Union.

Colonna rejected Britain's portrayal of the debate as being between modernity and immobility, saying the EU Common Agriculture Policy had been reformed three times, the latest in 2003.

"The only thing that doesn't change is the British cheque, which has existed since 1984, even though there is no longer any reason for it today," she said.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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