'Europe needs Britain' says Sarkozy

9th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

BIRMINGHAM, England, Nov 9 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday urged Britain to play an integral role in the European Union's push for economic reform.

BIRMINGHAM, England, Nov 9 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday urged Britain to play an integral role in the European Union's push for economic reform.

Addressing Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and business leaders in Birmingham, central England, Sarkozy said Britain must not be afraid of Europe and should acknowledge the importance of its ties to the EU.

"I am deeply convinced of this, Europe needs Britain," Sarkozy said in a keynote speech during the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry.

In a dig at London's close relationship with Washington, Sarkozy said Britain was "closer to Europe than the United States and that is the reality".

Reaching out to Britain, the French minister added: "We needn't be afraid of Europe and if you wish Europe to resemble you more, then in that case take your place at the European table because I am convinced that if you want to make things change you have to change them from inside, not from the outside."

Britain is frustrated at the EU's slow pace of economic reform, arguing that it harmed the trading bloc's future standing in the world.

A report last week by former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok concluded there had been "inadequate" progress on the Lisbon Strategy, a grand plan to make the European Union the world's most dynamic economy by 2010, due to "a lack of commitment and political will".

Addressing the CBI ahead of Sarkozy on Tuesday, Brown called on the EU to move from a 25-member trade bloc that looks inwards to become "outward looking, reforming and open".

Brown had earlier vaunted his own record as Chancellor of the Exchequer, having brought Britain economic stability thanks to low unemployment and inflation, as well as strong growth.

Sarkozy acknowledged there were lessons to be learned from Britain's success under Brown.

"I am not blind," he said. "I think you have to keep what makes you specific. At the same time you have to understand that if we pull together we will be stronger."

Sarkozy added: "We must work together because our problems are the same.

Our ambitions are the same and we must link up together to build this political and economic Europe."

Brown took the opportunity to hit out once again at the fiscal regime that governs EU countries signed up to the euro.

"On fiscal policy generally I can tell you that we will learn from, and not repeat, the mistakes of the European Growth and Stability Pact, with its focus on an annual, not long term, perspective and its concern for short term deficits not long term debt," he said.

The pact requires that eurozone members, of which Britain is not one, hold their annual public deficits to a maximum three percent of gross domestic product or face financial sanctions.

But the two largest eurozone countries, Germany and France, have repeatedly failed to honour the deficit ceiling and have escaped punishment.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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