Britain wants to boost its number of EU officials: Hague

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Britain wants to boost the number of its personnel among the ranks of staff in the European Union, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday.

In a keynote speech launching the foreign policy vision of Britain's new coalition government, Hague added it was "no longer sensible or indeed possible" within the EU to focus its diplomatic efforts on the largest countries, like France and Germany, at the expense of smaller ones.

The eurosceptic foreign secretary, part of a Conservative-led government which took power under David Cameron in May, said the new administration was "determined" to "give due weight to Britain's membership of the EU."

He accused Gordon Brown's previous government of a "mystifying" failure to "give due weight to the exercise of British influence in the EU.

"They neglected to ensure that sufficient numbers of bright British officials entered EU institutions and so we now face a generation gap developing in the British presence in parts of the EU where early decisions and early drafting take place," Hague said in a speech at the Foreign Office.

"As a new government, we are determined to put this right."

He said that despite Britain making up 12 percent of the EU's population, it represents just 1.8 percent of the staff at entry-level policy grades.

The comments came despite the fact that the EU's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton is British.

Hague said that, while France and Germany remain "our crucial partners" in the EU, Britain needs to look "further and wider" in order to exert influence.

It wants newer member states which were formerly under Soviet control to share their experiences of transitioning to democracy with EU candidate countries and Hague said he had started talks with foreign ministers on this.

© 2010 AFP

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