Cameron vows to defend British interests at first EU summit

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British Prime Minister David Cameron entered his first EU summit Thursday vowing to defend Britain's "red lines" and implicitly criticising a French initiative for a eurozone economic government.

"You'll see Britain playing a very positive, a very engaged, very active role in the European Union," Cameron told a joint press conference with EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

"We will of course always defend our national interests, as others do, and our national red lines," he stressed.

Barroso paid tribute to the efforts of the British coalition government to tackle its economic woes.

"We believe they are exactly taking the right medicine for the situation," Barroso said.

Both men implicitly criticised France's idea of introducing "economic government" for the eurozone, concentrating instead on the need to foster growth through confidence in fiscal policies.

"Our citizens want us to concentrate on substance not on more discussions about institutions or processes," Barroso told reporters

Cameron said such statements were "music to my ears," underlining that "we should be focussing on the issues of substance and not of institutional reform."

France had been calling for a form of economic government for the 16-nation eurozone to increase fiscal coordination and effectiveness.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reluctantly renounced his initiative on Monday in the face of opposition also from Germany which fears creating a two-speed Europe.

The issue of economic governance and how to coordinate action to avoid future crises was at the centre of the EU summit in Brussels, the first since Cameron took power at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in May.

© 2010 AFP

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