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UK, Greek exit fears cloud EU summit

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 02:16

EU leaders are meeting in Riga for a summit ostensibly on relations with ex-Soviet states. But as Ivor Bennett reports, the agenda is being dominated by two issues much closer to home - Greece's debt crisis and the UK's in/out referendum.

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The crowbar will be left behind, but the message won't be. Britain is getting tough on immigration. The dawn raid on suspected illegal migrants in West London was used as a warning shot by David Cameron ahead of his visit to Riga. Where he arrived still flexing his migration muscles. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, DAVID CAMERON, SAYING: "One thing throughout all of this will be constant, and that is my determination to deliver for the British people a reform of the European Union so they get a proper choice in that referendum that we'll hold." Cameron's keeping his demands close to his chest. But one of them's expected to be an opt-out from the EU principle of forging 'ever closer union' between member states. That and restricted access to benefits for economic migrants. Treaty change won't be easy, but the UK does have a strong hand, says Jeremy Batstone-Carr from Charles Stanley. SOUNDBITE (English) JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, CHIEF ECONOMIST AND DIRECTOR, CHARLES STANLEY, SAYING: "There are a number of countries who still take the UK extremely seriously. And if the UK electorate opted to breakaway through the referendum result, I think that would be a very difficult issue for the powers-that-be in Brussels, and in Strasbourg, and in Frankfurt, to ignore completely." The summit in Riga is supposed to be about relations with former Soviet republics. But worries over Britain - and Greece - are dominating the sidelines. Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande meeting their Greek counterpart last night, as a potential debt default looms ever nearer. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "It was a very friendly and constructive exchange but it is also clear that there is more work to do with the three institutions." Despite that, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was his usual relaxed self. Even a June 5th debt repayment deadline not enough to dampen spirits. He does have some remaining bailout aid he can call on. But only if he agrees to the required reforms. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GREEK PRIME MINISTER, ALEXIS TSIPRAS, SAYING: "I'm optimist(ic) we can soon reach a long-term, sustainable and viable solution without the mistakes of the past." In front of the cameras at least, the EU is still one big happy family. But there is now a real struggle to keep it together. With not just one black sheep, but two.

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UK, Greek exit fears cloud EU summit

Friday, May 22, 2015 - 02:16