02:11 GMT +321 August 2019
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    Reform Showdown: Hollande's 'Eurozone Plans' to Divide EU Heavyweights

    © AP Photo / Geert Vanden Wijngaert
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    French President Francois Hollande has fired a warning to Britain over Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU, by calling for the creation of a "Eurozone government" that would leave behind countries opposed to greater European integration.

    While Hollande's proposals were put forward in response to the Eurozone's highly criticized approach to the Greece debt crisis, it was also interpreted as a thinly veiled message to London about France's position ahead of upcoming reform negotiations between Britain and the EU, to be held before the UK's 2017 In/Out referendum on European Union membership.

    The French President wrote in the article that greater European integration would be beneficial for the continent, while also seemingly criticizing Britain and Germany by saying that the EU's recent problems had been the result of some countries pushing for national goals rather than EU-wide cooperation.

    "Our biggest threat is not too much Europe, but too little," he wrote.

    As part of the proposals, Mr Hollande called for the Eurozone to have its own government, with a "dedicated budget and a parliament to ensure democratic control" — acknowledging that the current EU structure was too technical.

    Problems for Cameron

    While the proposals are unlikely to be taken seriously by other nations any time in the near future, Hollande's statement has sent a clear message to Cameron about France's stance towards EU membership, with Paris favouring further integration rather than the special agreements and exemptions Britain is looking for.

    France, alongside Poland and other EU countries have already expressed their opposition to the prospect of Britain being exempt from certain European provisions, particularly in relation to the free movement of labor.

    Commentators say Hollande's latest push will be met with concern from Conservative Party strategists in the UK, amid suggestions it may undermine David Cameron's plans for Britain to remain in the EU as a type of second rate member, operating with a semi-detached relationship.

    UK government officials have maintained they hope to remain within the bloc, but only after certain changes to Britain's membership have been made.

    However, the hardline stance taken against Greece during recent debt negotiations has raised speculation that European officials may stand firm and block the UK's reform renegotiation plans.

    More Cracks in the Franco-German Alliance

    Hollande's proposals have not only been seen as a swipe at Britain, with suggestions the call for greater European engagement was also directed at Germany, particularly in light of Berlin's leading role in recent Greece negotiations.

    German officials were heavily criticized by the Greek politicians, the public and parts of the media for their tough stance on Athens, with many European officials critical of a German push to suspend or remove Greece from the Eurozone.

    Hollande's proposals revived similar suggestions put forward by former European Commission President, Jacques Delors, which were rebuffed by Berlin in the 1990s and which are likely to be rejected again today.

    It has also raised questions about a possible crack in the once seemingly indestructible Franco-German alliance between Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has driven the EU forward in recent times.

    Previously criticized by some that he simply bowed to Berlin's demands, Hollande confronted German officials during recent Greek debt talks and was thought to be instrumental in convincing Merkel to avoid a Grexit from the Eurozone, despite pressure from some German hardliners.

    If anything, Hollande's proposals, spurred on by the recent debt crisis, have gone a long way to revealing the ideological cracks between some of the EU's heavyweight nations.


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