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Hollande: UK's EU reform 'not priority'

Friday, January 31, 2014 - 02:09

Jan. 31 - The Anglo-French 'mini summit' between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande is aimed at deepening defence and energy cooperation, but is overshadowed by an issue on which the two sides find little common ground: reform of the European Union. David Pollard reports.

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A chilly start to the day at Brize Norton just outside London. And not only the weather. Behind the smiles, there's little entente cordiale between Francois Hollande and David Cameron. Their relationship strained over the economy, and how to reform the European Union. The official business of the day: cooperation on defence, space and nuclear research. But the two were also due to meet later - over a pint in a British pub - to talk treaty revision. Even if the British prime minister was making his view clear beforehand. SOUNDBITE (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, SAYING: "We want to see that renegotiation. That renegotiation will involve elements of treaty change and then there will be a referendum in Britain before the end of 2017, that is an in-out referendum." Caught in a storm over his private life, Hollande said France has other things to worry about. SOUNDBITE (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, SAYING: "If there are going to be amendments to the text, we don't feel for the time being they are urgent. We feel revising the treaty is not a priority." No surprise then that investors see little prospect of Cameron garnering support from France - which this week reported its highest unemployment ever. Carsten Brzeski of ING. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) CARSTEN BRZESKI, SENIOR ECONOMIST, ING, SAYING: ''The other thing for Mr Hollande right now is that his economy is really not doing very well. Which also means he is not considered as one of the strong positions in the European field, which also means his kind of power to negotiate future EU reforms is rather weak.'' Inevitably, questions over Hollande's private life crept in, when this journalist asked about his alleged affair with a French actress. SOUNDBITE (English) REPORTER SAYING: "Monsieur le President. I know this is a very sensitive subject for you. Do you think your private life has made France an international joke? Are you still having an affair with Julie Gayet? And do you wish she was here?" SOUNDBITE (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, SAYING: "On the last question you asked, I won't answer you." Treaties on defence and energy were signed, before the two leaders headed off for their working lunch. With, it's reported, no arrangements made for wives or girlfriends to attend.

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Hollande: UK's EU reform 'not priority'

Friday, January 31, 2014 - 02:09