» Thursday, November 24, 2005

Angela Merkel-Europe

Asked if there had been any progress on the EU budget during the meeting today between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that today was not about detail. Chancellor Merkel had only been doing the job for 3 days, so today had been about introductions and getting to know where we were overall. The time for detail would be at the December summit. Put to him that we could therefore assume that Germany wouldn’t support us on the budget, the PMOS said that question was entirely wrong. It had not been that kind of meeting. Today had been about the context within which we tried to move forward on the detail. It had not been a negotiation on the budget.

Asked if the issue had been raised, the PMOS said that inevitably if you were discussing Europe you discussed the budget in broad outline, but you did not discuss the fine detail. Asked if the Prime Minister thought he had an ally in Angela Merkel, the PMOS said that was best answered at their joint Press Conference. The Prime Minister had said that what was important to the future of Europe was that countries had relationships with each other but that Europe as a whole moved forward to meet the challenge and the opportunity of globalisation. Therefore whether it was domestically or in Europe we pursued a program of reform. Chancellor Merkel would speak for herself, but in terms of moving that forward that was very clearly part of the dialogue within Europe and between our two countries. It had been a good meeting

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned by Angela Merkel’s repeated references to the European Social Model, the PMOS said that you need only read the Prime Ministers two speeches to the European Parliament to understand that he did not bristle at the words ‘social dimension in Europe’. He believed there should be a social dimension but it should be a social dimension which was modernised to meet the challenge of globalisation. It was rather out-dated to try and caricature countries as being for or against a social dimension. The important thing was whether the social dimension was modernised.

Asked if the Prime Minister had had a full and frank discussion with the Polish Prime Minister on the budget, the PMOS said that if ‘full and frank’ was code for ‘did they have a row’ the answer was no. It had been a very friendly meeting. He was sorry that neither meeting fitted into easy caricatures of Europe but Punch and Judy had been left at home, we had had real meetings and proper discussion.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Angela Merkel that we should try and revive the European constitution, the PMOS said that there was an issue there but the immediate issue for the summit in December was the budget negotiations and the WTO round. That was enough for our plate at the minute. We would of course have to address the issue at some stage. Asked if it was still on the agenda for the UK government, the PMOS said that we were trying to get a significant step forward in the WTO round in Hong Kong and a budget deal in December. Put to him that he just said this was an issue which had to be addressed the PMOS said that was purely a statement of fact. Asked if we were implying that the constitution was dead, the PMOS said that we had never said the constitution was dead.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Search for related news

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