PARIS (Reuters) - German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel hit out at British Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for European Union reform on Wednesday, saying his vision of Europe was better suited to corporate interests than to people.
The criticism, which Gabriel made after talks with fellow center-leftists in Paris, is a foretaste of the resistance the conservative Cameron can expect as he pushes for changes he says are needed to keep Britain inside the 28-nation bloc.
“Our idea for Europe is quite the opposite of the idea of Mr Cameron,” Gabriel, who is also economy minister in Berlin’s coalition between his Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters.
“Mr Cameron wants to reduce Europe back to a single market,” he said in English. “Mr Cameron wants to have a level playing field for companies but no level playing field for people. (Yet) Europe is made for people.”
His comments came days after Berlin and Paris drafted a joint paper calling for stronger governance of the 19-state euro currency of which Britain is not a member. That move prompted renewed speculation the two capitals back a “two-speed” EU with core and non-core members.
“Our idea is that of course that we have different speeds of integration in Europe ... this is an idea which is okay,” said Gabriel.
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said the Franco-German blueprint for eurozone reform, which includes a call for more regular summits of euro zone states, was intended to boost the economy of the zone while making Europe more democratic.
“If we manage to do that, I would say that we are automatically addressing the British concern,” he said, noting London was seeking simplified and more flexible EU structures.
“We are ready to examine that. But at the same time, we need a stronger and better integrated euro zone,” he added.
Cameron, re-elected as prime minister on May 7, has pledged to reshape Britain’s ties with the EU to claw back powers from Brussels and win back more national sovereignty in areas like immigration and welfare.
Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Tom Heneghan