Hollande warns Cameron over cuts
French president Francois Hollande has warned of a tough European Union summit later this week if countries including Britain continue to demand drastic cuts to the EU budget without making concessions themselves.
In an address to the European Parliament, he said the 2014-2020 EU budget of a trillion euros was open to some savings but insisted the leaders at Thursday's summit should not compromise innovation and development.
In several remarks that could easily be seen targeting prime minister David Cameron, the biggest proponent of drastic savings in the EU budget while insisting to hold on to existing concession, Mr Hollande said "there are those who want to see cuts, others - possibly the same, who want guarantees on their own rebate." A November summit ended in failure with British-led opposition against proposals for a new seven-year EU budget.
"I have been told a solution cannot happen with Britain. But why should one country decide for 26 others? Indeed we could have agreed at the last European summit," Mr Hollande said. "In order to let people say that this failure was a victory, we let it happen.
"There are those who want to see cuts, others - possibly the same, who want guarantees on their own rebate."
Mr Hollande also chided Mr Cameron for a recent speech where he pledged to renegotiate relations with the EU and questioned the fundamental philosophy of the EU.
The French president said the EU was "a project where we cannot keep on arguing about what is already there and calling everything into question at every step." He said it was "a commitment in which everyone accepts the balancing out of rights and obligations, where the rules are abided by, where confidence creates solidarity."
Thursday will mark the first summit meeting since Mr Cameron's January 23 speech on Europe.
Mr Hollande did foresee a Europe where some core nations could leave others behind and forge ahead on specific issues - much like had been done with the euro, where 17 nations now share the single currency. It did not mean already existing standards could be undermined, he said.
"It is a Europe where states decide to go forward, not necessarily always the same, to enter in new projects to harmonise their policies beyond the basic cornerstones which must be our shared competence," Mr Hollande said.