French President François Hollande did his best ostrich impression on Thursday, skipping the beginning of an EU meeting on budget cuts and turning off his phone. The meeting in Brussels was meant to hammer out a compromise between Hollande and austerity-minded UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The two were tens of billions of euros apart on the proposed EU budget, which runs through 2020. The Guardian has the story:
Cameron met Merkel and the two EU presidents, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, to explore the potential for agreement. Hollande was expected to attend the meeting which went on for more than one hour. When he did not show, Van Rompuy, chairing the summit, repeatedly phoned the French leader to summon him to the negotiation.
“Hollande was not even answering his mobile,” said a senior EU official.
Hollande eventually showed up late to the meeting, and the leaders found a middle ground after 25 hours of negotiations. Though the FT is calling Cameron the victor, Hollande defended himself:
“This agreement is not everything we could have hoped for, but it is in line with the commitments I made,” he said. “Is this my dream budget, the one I wanted if I was alone? No. But the thing with Europe is we’re not alone.”
Hollande may have ultimately cut a deal, but his tardiness clearly demonstrated his displeasure at Cameron’s parsimony. The French President channelled Charles de Gaulle, who famously vetoed Britain’s first application to join what was then the Common Market and is now known as the EU.
As the financial crisis and the resulting political crisis eat at the foundations of the EU, every political battle is becoming tougher. Germany wants Britain in as a balance to France and the Debtor Caucus, which think the proper use of Germany’s money is to support them in style. A lot of smaller northern countries feel the same way as Germany on this point. France, meanwhile, seems increasingly convinced that an EU without a UK will be more to its liking.
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