European leaders criticised UK Prime Minister David Cameron's promise to renegotiate his country's relationship with the EU and let the British people vote on the outcome, creating potential hurdles to his plan. (Includes link to statement from Austrian Chancellor Faymann.)
The pushback from fellow EU leaders represents a problem for Mr Cameron. In attempting to address anti-Europe sentiments in the UK—and especially his own Conservative Party—Mr Cameron has given the rest of Europe another time-consuming problem to solve on top of the Continent's already long list of concerns.
"The EU does not need unwilling Europeans", said Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister and a former European commissioner, during a speech at an annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland. "We need more, not less integration", German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said separately.
Mr Cameron challenged fellow European leaders to move toward a bloc-wide negotiation of a new treaty, but added that the UK will pursue separate talks if that isn't possible. He dwelled at length on the bloc's current shortcomings, which he said had led to growing popular frustration across its membership, citing street protests in Athens, Madrid and Rome, and heated disputes in parliaments in Berlin, Helsinki and The Hague.
Some European government officials wasted no time pushing back at Mr Cameron's calls for major changes to the bloc. Some suggested Mr Cameron's speech was motivated by UK politics—where some members of the prime minister's party have pushed an aggressively anti-Europe agenda— rather than the needs of the EU. European leaders also cautioned that the British won't be able to dictate their terms for remaining part of the EU. Senior officials from the French and German governments said they want the UK to remain in the bloc, but they dismissed several of Mr Cameron's central demands for a looser union that fosters trade and economic growth but intervenes less in national affairs.
See also Austrian Chancellor Faymann responds to Cameron: "Europe's true concern is youth unemployment"
© Wall Street Journal
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