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Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister
"Nobody wants a European superstate"
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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 23:48 GMT
Fischer backs off EU 'superstate'
Robin Cook (left) and  Joschka Fischer
German Embassy denies Mr Fischer's speech was toned down
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has called for deeper European integration during a visit to Britain to receive a friendship award.

Mr Fischer toned down his language from that used in his controversial speech in Berlin last year, avoiding mention of a future European government with a directly elected president.

Instead he attempted to put his ideas of a closer European union in context, insisting only distinct nation states could provide the EU with "democratic legitimacy".

For us (federalism) implies decentralisation and for you rather suggests centralization

Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister
"The EU is never going to be a state, let alone some kind of superstate," he said.

"No one - in Germany, France or anywhere else in Europe - wants a centralized super-bureaucracy."

He was speaking at London's Claridge's Hotel after receiving an award from the German-British Forum for his contribution to relations between the countries.

What was necessary now, he said, was to define more clearly who is responsible for what within the Union, what issues were handled by the EU and its institutions and what were left to the member states.


His attempt to allay Eurosceptic fears of an EU "superstate" comes amid mounting scepticism in the Conservative Party and warnings that a new European Rapid Reaction Force could threaten links with the US and Nato.

"European integration is not some kind of alternative to close transatlantic partnership. The fact is, Europe needs both," he said.

"The stronger and more united Europe is, the more active it can be as a US partner and ally in the 21st century."

The UK's German ambassador was forced to deny that British officials had pressured Mr Fischer to tone down his enthusiasm for integration.

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, joined Mr Fischer in trying to sell the process to eurosceptics in Britain and elsewhere as a way of limiting the influence of Brussels, not increasing it.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Fischer and Mr Cook launched the website designed to bring the peoples of the two countries closer together.

The site will include details of shared activities, such as youth exchanges, sports and language courses.

Mr Cook said: "I hope will prove to be an invaluable aid in finding out how to establish contact and will be a powerful contribution to British-German relations in the future."

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude claimed that despite Mr Fischer's attempts to allay Eurosceptic fears his speech proved that: "Europe is on a one-way street to a superstate".

"Almost alone in Europe Tony Blair refuses to be open about Europe's direction," he said.

"Germany has leaders who are prepared to be honest about their views on Europe. Britain, under a Labour Government, does not."

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See also:

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Fischer 'could have met' militant
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Fears of a European superstate
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13 May 00 | Europe
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