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Germany

Merkel: Germany Must Be EU's Broker

Germany must return to its role as an "honest broker" among EU member nations and stop playing favorites between Britain and France, conservative opposition leader Angela Merkel said Monday. Merkel, who is set to challenge Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in possible early elections in September, told reporters that it made little sense now to seek a country to blame for the failure of budget talks at a weekend summit. "Germany, if it must be an honest broker, must not be (for example) for Poland and against France or against France and for another country," Merkel said. "Everything must be done to build bridges again in Europe." She said that the mutual recriminations seen now were unproductive, in an attack on Schröder but also French President Jacques Chirac and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who holds the rotating EU presidency, for laying the blame squarely at British Prime Minister Tony Blair's feet. "Germany must again become an honest broker for the interests of all those involved in the EU," she said. European leaders failed to agree at the summit on a common budget starting in 2007, a move that led Juncker to describe the 25-country bloc as being in a "deep crisis." Many in Europe blamed Blair for the collapse over his refusal to give up Britain's long-cherished EU rebate without an iron-clad guarantee of a thorough re-think of the way the bloc spends its taxpayers' money. Blair had attacked France's "own rebate," as he describes the subsidies contained in the Common Agriculture Policy which benefits French farmers the most.

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