| BERLIN, June 7
BERLIN, June 7 Two starkly differing views on
pan-Europeanism were on display on Thursday as Germany's
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister David
Cameron sparred over his party's exit from a centre-right bloc
in the European parliament.
The Tories' exit from the European People's Party (EPP) in
2009 after Cameron became party leader remains a sore point
between London and Berlin, who otherwise share plenty of common
ground on issues like the need for fiscal discipline in Europe,
despite Britain not being a member of the euro zone.
But Britain's prime minister, invited to speak to students
at Merkel's Berlin office alongside the chancellor and Norwegian
leader Jens Stoltenberg, said bluntly that he did not believe
there would be "genuine" pan-European parties for a long time.
"The truth is we don't have European political parties now
and I don't think we will have genuine European political
parties for really quite a long time," said Cameron, who left
the EPP in disagreement with its federalist vision of Europe.
"Angela and I agree about many things: we both think getting
rid of budget deficits is important, we both believe in free
enterprise, we are both members of NATO, we have lots that we
agree about, but we don't agree for instance about nuclear power
or the fiscal compact," said the British premier.
Calling pan-European parties "unrealistic", Cameron added:
"My idea about Europe is that we should grow together rather
than push things too fast, otherwise we have problems."
Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) is a leading light
of the EPP, whose national leaders habitually meet before
European Union summits to hammer out a centre-right consensus.
Merkel acknowledged that parties in the EPP family often had
differences, but said her CDU had much in common with France's
UMP and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party.
"We regretted the Tories leaving the European People's Party
but you didn't exactly join the Socialist party family instead,"
she joked to Cameron.
Cameron's party is now in the Eurosceptic-minded European
Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.
"I think it's good if Europe becomes a little
party-politicised," said Merkel, citing common EU foreign policy
as an area where this might help avoid the situation where "we
are weak when we disagree".
Cameron has been criticised for isolating Britain further by
rejecting Merkel's fiscal compact for tougher budget rules,
which has been agreed to by 25 out of 27 member states. He also
rejects proposals for a pan-European financial transactions tax.
"Outside the euro zone we don't need to sign the fiscal
compact. It would be good if in Britain we didn't rack up debts
again, but I think we should rely on the people to vote in and
vote out governments when they do the right thing or the wrong
thing, rather than constrain ourselves, because we have our own
currency so we can make our own rules," Cameron said.