Cameron finds EU partners underwhelmed over growth drive

By Staff Reporter
AFP European Edition

Mar 01, 2012 19:13 EST

British Prime Minister David Cameron found Thursday night's EU summit to be typically hard going, as moves to re-energise the bloc's economy mostly ignored a plan he put forward alongside 11 other leaders.

Three months after a major clash in Brussels when he refused to sign up for a treaty aimed at forcing European Union governments to deliver balanced budgets, Cameron left the venue shortly before midnight (2300 GMT) with just two words and a forced smile.

"Very happy," he said when pressed on whether he felt he had achieved his goals for the summit.

On the way in, Cameron said he was coming with "a whole series of measures" to drive growth, which he summarised as "including deregulating businesses to set them free to create more jobs."

"The aim is to get as many of those measures approved as possible," he had said.

Joined notably by the leaders of Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland, conservative Cameron co-signed a letter to EU president Herman Van Rompuy calling for a new focus on trade with the United States, Russia and China.

The letter was also signed by Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden.

But no detailed trade goals, such as launching a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Japan "before the summer" were emphasised in the EU leaders' draft, which diplomats said angered Cameron.

An EU source said there had been "a bit of an issue" wand that Cameron and other signatories were "upset".

Calls to "seek to deepen trade and investment relations with Russia" and "launch a strategic consideration of our trade and investment relationship with China" were not taken up, said Van Rompuy.

Calls for complete integration of Europe's energy market and the digital economy by 2014 and 2015 respectively did make it in, but a move to end easy state guarantees for Europe's banking system was nowhere to be seen.

EU leaders even kept a disputed reference to moves to develop a French-inspired tax on financial transactions, which Cameron vehemently opposes, as well as a cross-border taxation regime for multinational businesses.

Cameron's self-proclaimed use of Britain's "veto" in December to stay out of the fiscal pact initially delighted the anti-European wing of his party, which he needs to keep the Conservatives at the head of a coalition government.

The treaty is to be formally signed at the summit Friday, with Britain and the Czech Republic the only opt-outs.

But a muted appearance at a January summit, when Cameron purposefully sought to build bridges, saw accusations of back pedalling among some political opponents.

Source: AFP European Edition


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