New EU War of Words German Politician Upsets British with Comments

The swipe aimed at Britain by Volker Kauder, a senior member of Germany's Christian Democrats, has caused trouble in United Kingdom, where the press says Berlin and London have fallen out over the euro crisis. Friday's meeting between Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Cameron could be tense.
Volker Kauder said the UK "carries a responsibility for the success of Europe."

Volker Kauder said the UK "carries a responsibility for the success of Europe."

Foto: Peter Endig/ dpa

Volker Kauder is now a famous man in Great Britain -- but that doesn't necessarily mean the senior Christian Democrat is popular on the other side of the North Sea.

"Just looking for their own advantage and not being prepared to contribute -- that cannot be the message we accept from the British," Kauder said at the conference of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Leipzig on Tuesday, in reference to British opposition to a European Union-wide financial transaction tax favored by Germany. Although the United Kingdom is not in the common currency zone, as a member of the EU itself it "also carries a responsibility for the success of Europe," Kauder said.

With his remarks, Kauder  has managed to wake the slumbering British media beast. '"Controversial claim from Merkel ally that EU countries all follow Berlin's lead -- and Britain should fall into line" was how the headline in the tabloid Daily Mail interpreted his remarks. Kauder's word will certainly cause trouble in the UK, especially among euroskeptic members of the Conservatives. The Times newspaper is already writing of a clash between London and Berlin.

Leaving the European Quagmire

Euroskeptic Tories warned in the newspaper of a Europe as envisaged by Germany: The government in Berlin wants to create a closed economic and political bloc; it is thus the ideal opportunity for Britain to leave the European quagmire. The British were appalled by what was being played out in Europe, they claimed.

Even the British prime minister had expressed some decidedly euroskeptic opinions in recent times. He said on Monday evening that there was an "opportunity to begin to refashion the EU so it better serves this nation's interests and the interests of its other 26 nations too. An opportunity, in Britain's case, for powers to ebb back instead of flow away and for the European Union to focus on what really matters," Cameron said in his speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London.

His words, in turn, could well spark internal strife within the British government: Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and leader of junior coalition member the Liberal Democrats, warned Cameron that the electorate would not understand if the government engaged in "arcane" discussions about altering EU treaties amid the ongoing economic crisis. It would open the door for "populists, chauvinists and demagogues," said Clegg.

The disagreement between Germany and Britain could soon turn into a personal issue between Merkel  and Cameron, when the latter heads to Berlin for consultations with the chancellor. And Merkel has clear demands for the UK: She wants London to refrain from blocking the planned reform of the EU treaties and to go along with the financial transaction tax.

dsk -- with wires
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