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07 January 2016

EurActiv: Cameron Brexit proposals get mixed reception in Berlin and Budapest

British PM won support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel for EU reforms of European welfare systems, arguing that what is good for Britain is also good for Europe. Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban said to fully support UK demands but not Cameron's plan to restrict in-work benefits.

Speaking in southern Germany, where he held talks with the Christian Social Union - sister party of Merkel's CDU - Cameron said he was "even more confident after the discussions here that these (reforms) are possible and not just good for Britain but actually good for Europe".

"Not simply because other European countries will benefit by Britain continuing to be a member of Europe, but I think it's important that (the EU) shows it has the flexibility of a network and can address concerns of an individual member rather than the rigidity of a bloc," he said. [...]

While Merkel is seen as generally supportive of Britain's position, she has said that "the fundamental achievements of European integration" are not up for debate, in what is a clear reference to this proposal.

However Merkel later Thursday acknowledged that it was "not the intention of the law of free movement" to immediately allow EU migrants to claim benefits from host member states. 

"That means that you can work everywhere in Europe but this intention does not include drawing social benefits everywhere in Europe from day one," she told reporters in Berlin.

She said her own Labour Minister, Social Democrat Andrea Nahles, had also proposed new restrictions "which to a certain extent mesh with what Britain is seeking". 

The CSU has more eurosceptic leanings than its bigger sister party, the CDU, and has signalled support for Cameron's bid to limit benefits for EU migrants.  [...]

Later Thursday Cameron travelled to Hungary, where he won broad backing from Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban for his EU reform proposals - but not for his idea to freeze welfare benefits for EU migrants in Britain.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Cameron in Budapest, Orban said Hungary "fully supported" three out of four of Cameron's proposals but not his plan to restrict benefits for EU migrants for their first four years in Britain.

"We are citizens of a state that belongs to the EU and one whose people can take jobs anywhere in the EU, we don't want to go the UK and take something away, we don't want to be parasites," Orban said. "Hungarians contribute well to the British economy so they shouldn't accept discrimination," Orban said.

Cameron said the plans "remain on the table" but that he is "open to alternative solutions" before a meeting of EU leaders next month in Brussels. "Goodwill and creative thinking can find solutions," he said.

Orban said he was "optimistic" however that agreement on Cameron's proposals among the 'Visegrad 4' bloc of central European EU members - including Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic - could be reached, even on the "more difficult" including welfare system reform idea.

A common position by the Visegrad 4 bloc was necessary as other countries like much larger Poland were more affected by Cameron's plan on benefits. Some 55,000 Hungarian-born citizens are working in Britain according to Orban, although unofficial estimates put the figure at several hundred thousand.  [...]

Full article on EurActiv

David Cameron Pens Bild Article To Explain Why EU Migrants Shouldn't Get British Welfare Benefits

In his Bild article, Cameron noted the decline in EU support in Britain, explaining the renegotiation was to “address the concerns of the British people.”

“But these changes will benefit the EU too, and Germany can help deliver them," he wrote. "The problems in the EU that we are trying to fix are problems for Germany and other European partners too.”

The PM said that he wanted to “sweep away the excessive bureaucracy and the barriers to trade that undermine growth,” move power from “Brussels to the Bundestag, the House of Commons and other national parliaments” and to “stop people taking out from a welfare system without contributing to it first.”

“Because like Germany, Britain believes in the principle of free movement of workers,” he wrote. “But that should not mean the current freedom to claim all benefits from day one and that's why I've proposed restricting this for the first four years.”


“Securing these changes will mean we can continue our EU partnership into the future,” he concluded.

Full article on Huffington Post


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