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10 September 2013

Reuters: EU must reform to woo sceptical Britons - Parliament head

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The EU must hand back some powers to nation states while strengthening its role in other areas if it is to regain public trust and reverse a tide of scepticism in countries like Britain, the president of the European Parliament said.

Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, is worried by Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership if re-elected in 2015, but said Cameron's Conservatives might not win, so the vote might never take place. Even if it did, he said, Britons would probably vote to stay in given the prospect of early reform of the 28-nation bloc, the trading advantages membership gives Britain, and the inability of any one country to defend its interests alone.

"My advice to all of us is not to underestimate the dissatisfaction of a lot of people with ... the form in which the EU is for the time being", Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, told Reuters in an interview on a visit to London. "But the moment we improve it, and people see that we are committed to improving it, I think we will regain trust."

Schulz, a potential candidate to head the executive European Commission when its president, Jose Manuel Barroso, steps down in October 2014, said meaningful EU reform would marginalise parties such as UKIP, which he accused of "dangerous rhetoric".

Germany, Schulz's home country and the most powerful EU Member State, is likely to be pivotal to any renegotiation… Schulz was reluctant to be drawn on which powers could be repatriated to Member States but was more explicit about areas that should remain in Brussels' hands or come under EU control. "I agree with those who say the EU in Brussels must not do everything", he said. "I was 11 years a mayor in Germany. What you can do locally, do it there", he said, adding he understood people who fretted that the way the EU was administered had subverted the Union's ideals.

Full article

© Reuters

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