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The BBC's Justin Webb in Paris
"He (Jospin) spoke bluntly in favour of harmonised business taxes"
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European analyst Jacki Davis
"We can expect plenty more of this"
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Monday, 28 May, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Jospin rejects federal EU plan
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
Jospin prefers to talk of a federation of nation states
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has rejected German proposals for a more federal Europe and insisted on the central role of nation states as decision-makers in the 15-member bloc.


I am in favour of Europe but I remain attached to my nation

Lionel Jospin
Mr Jospin said a proposal by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, under which the EU Council of Ministers - the institution that represents national governments - would be turned into a chamber of the European Parliament, was unacceptable.

"France, like other European nations, could not accept such a status nor such a concept of what a federation is," he said in a speech to the Foreign Press Club in Paris.

Mr Jospin called for Europe to create an "economic government" with a fund to help euro zone economies in trouble.

Reform

In view of France's political importance within the EU, and the well-known antipathy in Britain to the federation idea, this rejection may well prove decisive, says the BBC's European affairs correspondent William Horsley.

Instead, Mr Jospin backed the notion of a European "federation of nation states" originally put forward by fellow French Socialist and former European Commission chief Jacques Delors.

Other proposals included:

  • common rules for business taxes and workers' rights
  • a common police force to defend the EU's borders
  • granting more power to the European Parliament and to the Council of Ministers
  • the European Commission to be made more democratically accountable by drawing the commission president from the political group holding a parliamentary majority
  • a European constitution, based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, endorsed by EU leaders at last year's Nice summit
  • greater consultation with trades unions
  • a consumer protection network to ensure transparency about the origin of products, in response to the BSE crisis
  • a long-term, co-ordinated defence policy for Europe, in view of the United States' "controversial" plans for a missile defence programme

British Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected the call by Mr Jospin for tax harmonisation during campaigning for Britain's June 7 election.

"Unfair tax competition is another matter, however. That prevents the single market working properly," Mr Blair added.

Mr Jospin said that while the EU needed "profound reform", no changes could be undertaken without the unanimity of all 15 member states.

Solidarity

Mr Jospin praised the EU's achievements in the areas of unemployment, the single currency and the European defence force.

But he warned of a growing disenchantment among citizens and politicians alike about the EU.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
The German Chancellor calls for a more federal Europe
He called for greater solidarity within Europe, focusing on workers' rights and the defence of Europe's citizens against what France sees as the excesses of globalisation.

He also said European industries needed to be protected from the negative effects of globalisation.

His speech is seen as an opening shot in Mr Jospin's bid to win France's presidential election race next year, against the incumbent, President Jacques Chirac.

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See also:

25 May 01 | Vote2001
Blair takes euro fight to Tories
29 Apr 01 | UK Politics
'Euro government' gets cool reception
18 May 01 | Europe
Schroeder's EU plans explained
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