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Europe

Schröder Attacks EU at His Final Summit

Outgoing German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder took advantage of his last speech on a European stage to criticize long-time friend Tony Blair.

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Schröder emphasized that Europe shouldn't forget its social standards

Long-winded speeches full of diplomatically coded half-criticisms and encouraging words for the future are regular fare at the EU, exemplified by French President Jacques Chirac's conclusion that the one-day meeting was "very useful" and would provide "good guidance."

But orators bowing out of politics, like Schröder, tend to give speeches of a different color.

"As you are no doubt aware, this wasn't a summit where any groundbreaking decisions were made," he told reporters after the meeting of the 25 European heads of state ended outside of London Thursday night.

Tony Blair in Straßburg Europaparlament

Many of Blair's plans met with Schröder's disapproval

Schröder let loose with a sharp string of criticism for the Anglo-Saxon social model, saying it should "certainly not" be used as an example for the rest of the EU and stressing that Europe needs to hold to its social roots.

"We should not accept social dumping or the undermining of environmental standards in the name of services liberalization," he said, addressing the other 24 heads of state at the informal meeting. "People in Europe are ready for change, and reform, but they need this with social change."

Globalization, budget quarrels continue

The EU leaders had hoped to hash out a response to globalization and how to maintain European prosperity without jeopardizing citizens' security amid growing competition from Asian countries.

Jose Manuel Barroso EU Pressekonferenz in Brüssel

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso propsed the fund idea

Another of the agenda's items, a multi-billion euro EU fund to soften the blow of globalization on European workers, also met with the still-chancellor's criticism. Schröder said he was "more than skeptical" of the plan -- that is supported by British Prime Minister Blair -- and that Germany could not afford to send any additional money to Brussels for the fund or other projects.

Germany's Chancellor-designate, Angela Merkel, has also voiced her opposition to the fund over the past week and stated Germany would not be sending a bigger check to the EU under her leadership.

Disagreements on how to finance Europe's 2007-2013 budget could not be overcome at the meeting as discord in the agricultural and service market sectors continued, the heads of state, however, adding pressure to find a consensus the next time the council meets in December.

Merkel will be welcome European table

Angela Merkel und Gerhard Schröder

Merkel will take over for Schöder at the next round of talks

As Europe anticipates new leadership in Germany, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that Blair may have set the meeting for a time when he thought Merkel -- who is expected to be more favorable to some of his to proposals -- would have already taken over for Schröder.

French President Jacques Chirac also said he is confident relations with Germany will not change. Chirac predicted Merkel would further strengthen the bond between the two nations regarding the thorny topic of agriculture.

"There will be absolutely no change, none at all," said Chirac, who enjoyed a close working friendship with Schröder. "The new German government and chancellor hold positions that are much closer to France."

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