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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 05:40 GMT
Row over 'secret EU superstate'
Flags at Nice
Germany and Italy have published a joint paper
The government faces fresh accusations of misleading the public over plans for closer European integration as Prime Minister Tony Blair prepares for the crucial summit in Nice.

In a paper published on Tuesday night, Germany and Italy push for another EU summit on "further development of European integration".

Their joint submission to European leaders meeting in Nice on Thursday suggests the inter-governmental conference (IGC) should be held in 2004, according to The Times newspaper.

Tony Blair is happy to take Britain into an EU superstate but is doing so by stealth

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude
Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude called the latest document a "bombshell" and said it showed the government's secret integrationist policy and the "real agenda" behind Nice.

The summit is regarded as one of the most important meetings of EU leaders in years and aims to pave the way for the entry of some 13 new members.

Five objectives

Mr Blair has already suggested another summit and called for many of the proposals set out in the Italian-German paper.

But he told the European Union summit in Biarritz, France, in October there should not be a "two-speed" Europe as the EU expanded.

He said Britain wanted to make sure political reform in the EU was based on "nations coming together, not some European federal superstate".

The Foreign Office played down the significance of the paper, insisting it contained "nothing new".

Mr Blair has set himself five key objectives for this weekend's European Union summit in Nice aimed to strengthen the UK's position in Europe.

His aims include more power for Britain through a substantial re-weighting of votes, a smaller and better organised European Commission and a more flexible Europe free from "hardcore" nations.

Legal charter

He has also vowed to safeguard Britain's veto on crucial issues such as taxation and social security spending.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said many of the proposals in the Italian-German submission were in line with the government's position.

Mr Blair had called for the creation of a second chamber for the EU Parliament back in October, she added.

However, the Italian-German submission also called for members to discuss making the EU's controversial new Charter of Fundamental Human Rights legally binding, a move British ministers have repeatedly discounted.

But Mr Maude said: "Tony Blair is happy to take Britain into an EU superstate but is doing so by stealth because he knows Labour's beliefs are at odds with those of the British people."

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Blair seeks 'flexible' Europe
01 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Blair and Chirac's common purpose
20 Nov 00 | Talking Politics
Euro army widens political splits
17 Nov 00 | UK Politics
EU veto loss 'in national interest'
13 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Ministers step up war on Eurosceptics
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