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Reaction to proposals for a renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership

European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday released a proposal in response to demands laid down by UK Prime Minister David Cameron for a renegotiation of the UK’s membership of the European Union, European, US and Russian media report, the story being obviously much debated by UK media in a wide variety of editorials.

David Cameron welcomed the accord as “substantial progress,” several sources note, while British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in an interview with La Stampa that Britain is “pleased” with Donald Tusk’s proposal to avoid a Brexit, as the document offers “something” in each of the four areas in which Britain has made requests. All points raised by Mr Cameron have indeed been addressed, but some key points remained vague, the International New York Times notes.

Donald Tusk actually only approved a development that was already taking place, namely that of Europe developing at different paces, Die Weltcomments, while several articles wonder what exactly has been won, as reflected by a WSJE headline reading “A Limited Win for Cameron.” Several key concessions have been offered while steering clear of any permanent overhaul of EU treaties or key rules, the WSJE further says, adding that some within Mr Cameron’s party have raised concerns that the proposals do not go far enough.

The Times for instance mentions the position of London Mayor Boris Johnson who believes that Mr Cameron should extract more concessions on migration and sovereignty. The British Prime Minister has, however, won UK Home Secretary Theresa May’s backing, The Guardian reports. Theresa May indeed said yesterday that she would campaign for a “yes” vote in the country’s EU referendum. The Guardian quotes Theresa May as saying the proposals constituted “the basis for a deal” and that “EU free movement rules have been abused for too long.”

In a front-page article entitled “Brussels will have right to reject benefit curbs,” The Times however highlights that MEPs will be able to veto David Cameron’s proposal to give the country the right to limit benefits for EU migrants. Portuguese Interior Minister Constança Urbano de Sousa actually indicated, as reported by Diário Económico, that the Portuguese government firmly rejects any measure that violates the EU founding principle of prohibition of discrimination of workers regarding their nationality and added that any demand regarding this is unacceptable.

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä told Helsingin Sanomat that even though Finland can live with the EU’s planned concessions to Britain, the most difficult issue for him is the suspension of social security for migrant workers since this represents one of the EU’s cornerstones; the free movement of labour. Poland’s President Duda also emphasised that Poland will not agree to any discriminatory arrangements, TPV1 reports. The letter sent by Donald Tusk to the member-countries, Diário Económico further reports, opens two weeks of difficult negotiations in order to arrive to European Council meeting on 18-19 February, mainly in what concerns the proposed access cut of European workers to social benefits, which is a deep change in the free movement of people.

Several points are likely to be a source of intense debate between the member states, L’Opinion notes in an article called “Thefavours granted to London risk deepening the rift between European countries.” For example, the European Commission may propose to restrict child benefits for parents working in one country when their child lives in another. The idea of giving national parliaments increased power, with a very complex ‘red card’ system, risks creating a gap between the countries with strong parliamentary tradition and those without one. Or it may shine light on latent conflicts between heads of state and government on the one hand and parliamentarians on the other.

Furthermore, the proposal does not mention the role of the European Parliament, which is likely to cause some irritation, L’Opinion adds. Europe, Tageblatt warns in an editorial, should not become an à la carte EU and lose its social ideas and standards. Asked about the possibility of the UK-EU talks producing a variable speed Europe, Poland’s President Duda said that at present we are looking at a draft only, and the real deal will be negotiated at summits in Brussels. The EU, the WSJE reports, has indeed set a February 18-19 leaders’ summit as a target date for a final deal to be struck.




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