French FM reignites row with UK over EU rebate

6th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 5 (AFP) - French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Wednesday re-opened a row with Britain over its EU rebate two days before British prime minister Tony Blair is to visit Paris to meet president Jacques Chirac.

PARIS, Oct 5 (AFP) - French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Wednesday re-opened a row with Britain over its EU rebate two days before British prime minister Tony Blair is to visit Paris to meet president Jacques Chirac.

In comments in parliament and in an interview with Le Monde newspaper he said Britain's longstanding rebate from EU coffers -- worth EUR 4.5bn last year -- was threatening funding of EU enlargement.

"France thinks it is not right that a country, even the United Kingdom, does not shoulder its burden in financing the enlargement," Douste-Blazy told MPs.

He added, to Le Monde, that "when we see the efforts made by countries in the east (of Europe) and we tell them no when they come to the negotiating table because the British don't want to pay -- that's just not right."

Acrimony over France's push to have Britain give up the rebate scuttled a June EU summit that was meant to have agreed an EU budget for 2007-2013.

Chirac and Blair traded undiplomatic barbs in the lead-up to the summit.

Douste-Blazy's comments were certain to highlight the personal differences that remain between the two leaders, who also took contrary positions on the Iraq war. But it was unlikely that animosity would come to the fore when they meet on Friday.

Blair, whose country in July took over the rotating EU presidency, has said he himself regards the British rebate as an "anomaly that has to go."

He continues, however, to link any negotiation over the issue with reform of the costly EU common agriculture policy, of which France is the biggest beneficiary.

In the Le Monde interview, Douste-Blazy said: "I expect Mr. Blair to find funding for enlargement.... France put EUR 12bn more in the envelope up to 2013. We are asking everybody to do the same, including the British.

"Afterwards, I expect there to be a big debate on the European budget after 2013."

The minister added that France intended to ensure that the European Union upheld workers' rights  even if it implied a cost when it came to international competitivity.

"We are not Americans, Chinese, Indians, we are Europeans with a social humanism," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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