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Monday, June 27, 2005

Germany and Poland warm to UK budget plan


Germany and Poland appeared to sympathise with the British presidency's ideas on the EU budget at a meeting of foreign ministers and Polish ambassadors in Warsaw on Monday (27 June), while urging Europe to press ahead with enlargement.

"It is in the interest of Germany...to back a gradual decrease of funds earmarked for agriculture in exchange for those destined for innovation", Berlin's foreign minister Joschka Fischer said according to Reuters.

I must admit I admire Tony Blair. If he manages to convince Europe that it must turn from agriculture to innovation, it will be his biggest political achievement yet.

German diplomats were quick to tell EUobserver that the remarks do not signal a major shift in policy however, and were just another way of saying that direct payments to farmers should be phased out in favour of creative rural infrastructure aid.

I love European spin.

Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld gave a "fantastic" reaction to UK Europe minister Douglas Alexander's ideas on EU funding and enlargement, according to a source at the British foreign office.

The UK contact added that London is pushing for over 50 percent of the EU's 2007-2013 budget to go to new member states compared to 40 percent under the outgoing Luxembourg presidency's proposals.

Let's see France swallow that.

Mr Alexander's speech warned against "a politics of anxiety and an economics of protectionism" while pointing out that farming currently gobbles up 40 percent of EU funds but provides just 5 percent of its jobs.

Polish plumber pops up again
Poland's Mr Rotfeld also seemed to criticise France when he said that "national egoism is in the process of supplanting the values that created Europe", before urging politicians to abandon negative myths such as that of the Polish plumber.

The Polish plumber became a byword for cheap eastern European labour in last month's EU constitution debate in France.

Meanwhile, French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy urged the UK to "live up to its financial responsibilities" to Europe or risk turning the EU budget into a "fiasco", the Polish news agency PAP reports.

But the event was not as confrontational as implied by some British media, with the Telegraph implying that Mr Douste-Blazy refused to turn up in Warsaw until the UK delegation had left.

"The French minister had to stay behind for a meeting with prime minister De Villepin, that was all", a British source noted.

Paris praised Poland's "exemplary" behaviour in the recent summit talks,

Why thank you, we were just hoping so that out behavior would please you.

... while Warsaw described Germany as a key European partner and called France a locomotive driving events in Europe.

Enlargement must continue
Britain, France, Germany and Poland agreed that Europe is facing a period of political crisis that requires strong leadership and urged fellow member states to press head with the enlargement agenda.

"The prospect of EU accession is a catalyst for change in Turkey and in the Balkans", Mr Fischer noted.

The French and German ministers stayed in Warsaw for a Weimar triangle dinner on Monday night, while Mr Alexander flew to Vilnius to sell the UK presidency's plan to the Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus.

The French and British camps aim to spend the rest of the week drumming up good will in the east.

UK deputy prime minister John Prescott will visit Poland, the Baltic states, the Czech republic, Hungary and Slovakia in the next few days, while French Europe minister Catherine Colonna will drop in to Hungary.


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