LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron plans to use a meeting of European leaders this week to lobby against European Union requests for member states to stump up more money, a British government source said.
Cameron is under pressure to take a harder line on Europe before a national election in May next year, in which the rising popularity of the anti-EU UK Independence Party threatens his Conservative Party’s re-election chances.
The British leader has pledged to try to reform the country’s relationship with the EU and then hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017 if he wins next year’s election.
The EU has asked for more money from member states to cover higher spending for the rest of this year, and is also negotiating its budget for 2015. The UK government objects to both as too high.
The EU Council said on Wednesday it had rejected the European Parliament’s planned changes to the 2015 budget and would begin three weeks of talks to try to resolve differences. The discussions will also cover the issue of extra funding for 2014.
“What the European Parliament is looking for is not realistic,” the British source said before an EU Council meeting on Thursday and Friday which Cameron will attend.
Budget discussions are not on the official agenda, but Cameron is likely to take the opportunity to express his concerns to European Parliament President Martin Schulz and other leaders on the margins of the Brussels summit.
“We have got about three to four weeks before these negotiations really come to a head. Therefore, will we be looking at how do we use discussions with other European countries in those days ahead to try to make sure we are pushing down on those figures? Yes, we will,” the source said.
BE “MORE RUTHLESS”
Last year, Cameron hailed an EU budget that cut spending as an example of how he was reforming the EU.
“When families across Europe are dealing with the effects of the great recession, Europe shouldn’t be looking to spend more,” the source said.
The UK wants the bloc to look “more ruthlessly” at how it can reallocate finances within its existing budget.
Cameron also plans to use the summit to call on other EU nations to contribute more to the fight against Ebola. He wants members to commit a total of 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and 2,000 healthcare workers. So far, Britain has pledged 125 million pounds ($200 million) of funding.
“If you look at our spend as a proportion of GDP and others, I think there are about four or so countries that you could argue are at a similar level to us. There are quite a lot you might say are on amber and a lot more on red,” said the source.
“We are very clear that countries around the world need to recognize that by investing now to do more in the region we’d help to protect ourselves from greater risk in the future.”
Editing by Andrew Roche