BERLIN (Reuters) - Britain’s foreign minister Philip Hammond told Balkan states aspiring to membership of the European Union on Wednesday that he admired their enthusiasm but believed it would be even greater if the EU carried out reforms that Britain wants.
“What I think is fantastic is that, having identified the need for reform and the deep flaws in the existing structure, we have a lot of candidate countries that are banging on the door, warts and all, even with all the current flaws,” Hammond said on a panel in Berlin with foreign ministers from Western Balkan countries.
“How much more enthusiastic will they be when Europe is reformed to be an outward looking, competitive driver in the global economy, bringing jobs to its people, work to its young people in a way that frankly it is not doing at the moment,” he added.
Hammond said it was wrong to say that British Prime Minister David Cameron wanted Britain out of the EU.
“Under our peculiar form of democracy, he doesn’t have a way of stopping other people from saying what they think, especially when some of these other people are running at 18 percent in the opinion polls,” he said.
That seemed to be a reference to the anti-EU UK Independence Party, which along with some of his own Conservative party members is putting pressure on Cameron before a May 2015 national election. In response, Cameron has said he would try to curb EU immigration if re-elected and promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership if re-elected.
Reporting by Stephen Brown; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Larry King