Amid widespread reports that Britain was gradually easing out of European Union obligations and might block the next proposed EU budget, European Affairs Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told some twenty five of us over breakfast Nov. 13 that intense efforts were underway to resolve critical issues with London in anticipation of the key EU summit meeting Nov. 22-23.


He urged an agreement at the summit on the EU’s €1 trillion budget for 2014-2020, saying: “We are working to find the right balance and compromises.” Cazeneuve added that “EU budgets always present these difficulties.”


Regarding recent statements by Prime Minister David Cameron that he intends to block agreement on the budget if reductions in Britain’s contributions are not made, he repeatedly stated that Britain’s place was in the EU. “I do not believe that the United Kingdom sees its fate outside, and specifically with regard to the single market,” given Britain’s close trade and investment relations with Continental Europe.


Providing us a glimpse of what else will be up for decision at the summit, Cazeneuve said that he expected agreements on reform of the Common Agriculture Policy; improvement in the EU system of governance, including banking supervision; and reinforced financial support for Greece.


Responding energetically to French and German media reports of tensions with the German government, the minister said there was no basis for them, challenging us to cite a single statement from a French or German government official to back them up. “All of us in the government here meet and discuss with our German counterparts – daily,” he said.


In other comments, made over a hot breakfast in an elegant salon of the Foreign Ministry, Cazeneuve also said that EU membership issues related to the Balkans and Turkeywere on hold, pending evaluations of their record related to human rights, crime, corruption and development of what he described as “democratic institutions.”


Cazeneuve found the meeting stimulating and indicated he would be happy to meet us again…


– Axel Krause