Saturday, January 26, 2013

EU referendum speech: why Angela Merkel needs David Cameron, but not at expense of France

David Cameron's Europe speech struck a chord not just with Angela Merkel but with many Germans who wish they'd had a referendum too, says Thomas Kielinger. But that's no guarantee his plan will work.

Listening to David Cameron's Europe speech last week I had the sneaking suspicion that those who helped draft it might have included the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, too.

After all, ideas like competitiveness, flexibility or democratic accountability are as much part of her political vocabulary as they are of Cameron's.

Witness the speech she gave on Thursday in Davos, where she spoke of the urgent need for the EU member states to commit to improved competitiveness in areas like unit labour costs, infrastructure or administrative efficiency. She even called for increased pressure for such reforms. To both Merkel and Cameron "more Europe" means more openness to reform to make the EU fit for global purpose. A German-British duet, not a duel.

But the story doesn't end there, of course. There are 27 EU members and Frau Merkel, while siding with Britain's prime minister on certain issues cannot ignore the majority of her European partners and their criticism of British "exceptionalism" nor, indeed, the German political class or Germany's published opinion as evidenced in the reaction to Cameron's speech.