German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offered the U.K. limited support on renegotiating the treaties of the European Union, days after French President Francois Hollande said it wasn’t a priority.
At a joint press conference in London with his British counterpart William Hague, Steinmeier, speaking through a translator, said Germany wanted to see Britain’s influence in the “midst” of the EU, not on “the sidelines.”
Steinmeier said Germany was “not against discussing an adaptation of the treaties.” Still, he added, “it would be exaggerating to say that the U.K. and Germany are pulling in exactly the same direction. That is obviously not the case.”
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017, to placate euro-skeptics in his Conservative Party who fear losing votes to U.K. Independence Party, which wants Britain to withdraw from the bloc. Steinmeier said there had been a growth of euro-skeptic political parties across Europe that “doesn’t make our work any easier.”
Cameron and Hollande clashed over Europe at a meeting near Oxford last week. France says allowing changes for one country could lead to others making demands.
“We want Britain to stay in Europe,” Hollande said. “But that doesn’t mean that Europe can’t be made more efficient. France wants a euro zone that is better coordinated, better integrated. As for changing the treaties, there’s no urgency for now. That’s not the priority.”