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EU-UK deal is a fair agreement for both parties according to EU officials

The EU and UK reached an agreement on Friday night on a series of exceptions for the UK on issues of financial regulation, economic governance and migration, European media widely report – many of them featuring comments and editorials in Monday’s coverage. Under the agreement, the UK will restrict access to social benefits for EU migrant workers for up to 7 years; child care benefits for EU workers will be reduced; Britain will be exempt from the requirement of seeking ever-closer union; and British companies cannot be discriminated against for being outside the eurozone, Magyar Nemzet sums up.

In an interview with BBC1, British Prime Minister Cameron stressed that he protected the UK from ever closer union, and that the country will now enjoy a “special status” within the bloc akin to Denmark’s. His EU reform deal represents an effort to reclaim the country’s sovereignty, Mr Cameron claimed. The agreement indeed emphasises the British singularity and “exceptionalism”, which has functioned, on certain segments, ever since the country had joined the EU, Evenimentul Zilei notes.

The agreement, NRC Next further comments, does not change much to the current situation: the UK already had a special status within the EU and the accord only manages to define this status a bit more clearly. The general agreement signed with Great Britain allows us to enact something that already existed in reality, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault admitted in an interview with France 3, a “differentiated Europe” which admits two conceptions of Europe. We clearly admitted that Britain does not want to be in the eurozone or the Schengen area and does not want more integration; the Brussels agreement will now allow those who have a different objective in mind to advance, noted Jean-Marc Ayrault.

When individual EU member states start introducing conditions that go against the basic idea of EU cooperation, the Union is shaken to its foundations, according to prominent Swedish business leader Karin Svanborg-Sjövall, the CEO of the hink tank Timbro. “You could call it a European Union à la carte, where countries choose to go to different lengths in terms of their European integration,” Karin Svanborg-Sjövall says, as mentioned by Svenska Dagbladet.

What European officials claimed to be a fair agreement for both parties – with President Juncker being quoted, for instance, by Jornal de Notícia, as deeming the agreement to be fair for all sides – could create the foundation for a precedent, Tudor Despina writes on revista22.ro, a comment echoed in an article entitled “Europeans give in to London at the risk of triggering a domino effect,” published by Les Echos. The agreement “in theory is one less thing to worry about”, Les Echos’ Renaud Honoré writes, except for the fact that the agreement could “trigger a domino effect” and “an unravelling of common rules.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said that Germany would probably limit social benefits to European migrants as well; Belgium and Denmark are reportedly also considering using this new mechanism; conversely, Ireland has warned that the new disposition would not apply to its nationals living in the UK. In the long run, there is “a risk that other countries demand a referendum similar to the British one in order to obtain their own concessions,” a diplomat commented. The situation would be “less of a concern” if the euro area, at the core of European construction, had a “mobilising project” that could build momentum; but that is not the case, Les Echos concludes.

Considering that the deal with the UK will be the end of the European social union, Berliner Zeitung anticipates an even stronger focus on national interests within the EU and predicts that more member states will start to demand special treatment. For Cinco Días‘ Bernardo de Miguel, the EU-UK deal is “a small step forward for David Cameron but a big step backwards for the European Union.” “Nobody knows whether last Friday’s agreement clarifies the UK-EU relationship in a sustainable manner or whether it marks the end of a fair cooperation, founded on mutual rights and obligations,” Alde MEP Sylvie Goulard writes in an opinion piece in Les Echos entitled “The Brexit agreement, a denial of democracy.”

“One of the few certain statements one can make about Friday’s agreement between European leaders and David Cameron is that it will have little impact on the June 23 referendum on British membership of the EU. It is far too technical to sway many voters,” Wolfgang Münchau writes in the FT. It will be British voters and not Juncker or Tusk who will ultimately decide on Britain’s exit from the EU, Wprost adds. The agreement, NRC Next further comments, does not necessarily mean that the UK will remain in the EU; it only shows that Prime Minister Cameron committed himself to the EU.

Mr Cameron’s victories in the reform negotiations with the EU are in parts only of a “symbolic nature,” Handelsblatt says, stressing that the British Prime Minister will have to stress the benefits of the EU more in order to convince the Eurosceptics in the UK. In an interview with France 5 yesterday garnering some media attention in France and Greece, Commissioner Pierre Moscovici stated that the European Commission does not have a plan B in case the British people vote in favour of an exit from the EU, underlining that the EC will not be involved in the referendum campaign.

 

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