Chirac opens hostilitieswith Blair over rebate

9th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

LUXEMBOURG, June 9 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday called on Britain to "make a gesture of solidarity" over its European Union budget rebate ahead of an EU summit next week.

LUXEMBOURG, June 9 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday called on Britain to "make a gesture of solidarity" over its European Union budget rebate ahead of an EU summit next week.  

Chirac made the appeal in Luxembourg, after a meeting with that country's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency.  

British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday bluntly ruled out any negotiation over the EUR 4.6 billion (USD 5.7 billion) annual rebate, setting the scene for a feud between him and Chirac at the summit.  

The gathering of EU heads of state and government is to take place in Brussels June 16-17, just before Britain takes over the six-month EU presidency on July 1.  

Many taking part - especially Chirac - hope it will show a united face for the 25-state bloc in the wake of embarrassing 'no' results in referenda in France and the Netherlands in the past two weeks on whether to adopt an EU constitution.  

"The time has come for our British friends to understand that they must now make a gesture of solidarity" at the summit, Chirac told journalists.  

However he excluded any challenge to a Franco-German deal on the EU budget's biggest outlay: the Common Agricultural Policy, which greatly benefits France's farmers.  

"We cannot accept any reduction whatsoever of the direct aids to our farmers," he said.   The CAP, as it is known, is to remain as it is until 2012 under the deal, which was struck in 2002 much to the anger of Blair.  

Chirac also said he wanted to see the ratification process of the EU constitution continue across Europe, despite his country's rejection of it. Blair said Monday he had suspended plans to hold a referendum in Britain on the issue. Theoretically, it requires approval from all 25 EU member states before it can come into effect.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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