British PM wants to be 'engaged' with Europe

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

New British Prime Minister David Cameron told EU leaders he wanted a "practical and engaged" relationship with Brussels, his office said Friday, after appointing a moderate to be his new Europe minister.

In phone calls with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy, Conservative leader Cameron discussed problems facing the global and European economy, a Downing Street spokesman said.

"The prime minister reiterated his personal commitment to a practical and engaged relationship with Europe and looked forward to meeting EU President Rompuy and President Barroso in June" at the EU council, he said.

Cameron named David Lidington on Thursday to take the post of Europe minister in the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, in what commentators said represented an easing of his scepticism towards Brussels.

Lidington is a moderate compared to many Conservatives and was appointed ahead of Mark Francois, a eurosceptic who was their spokesman in opposition.

Francois oversaw the Conservatives' decision to pull out of the main European People's Party to form a new anti-federalist bloc in the European Parliament, which caused consternation in many European capitals.

Lidington, 53, spent several years as advisor to the relatively pro-European former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, and his appointment has already caused ire among lawmakers on the right of the party.

"David Lidington is a well-established Europhile. It means they've overridden Mark Francois, who comes from the euro-realist wing of the party. It's ridiculous," anti-EU lawmaker Bill Cash told the Daily Mail.

His appointment will be seen as a concession to the pro-European Lib Dems.

At the same time, Lidington has a good relationship with the new foreign secretary, the eurosceptic William Hague, having worked as his aide for two years when Hague was Conservative party leader.

The new Europe minister "balances a tough rhetorical stance on Europe adopted by William Hague", said the Financial Times Friday.

His appointment "signalled an end to more than a decade of Conservative hostility to the EU", said The Guardian.

Lidington worked for oil giant BP and RTZ before entering politics, and has been member of parliament for Aylesbury, northwest of London, since 1992.

Educated at Cambridge university, where he earned a doctorate in Elizabethan history, he is married and has four sons.

© 2010 AFP

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