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Germany

Schröder Willing to Compromise in Brussels

Ahead of a crucial meeting of EU leaders in Brussels Thursday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said he was ready to make concessions on Germany's contribution to the union's contentious budget.

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Schröder has to weigh Europe's and Germany's needs on Thursday

Speaking in Germany's parliament, Schröder said he was heading to Brussels on a hopeful note.

"I'm going there with a willingness to reach an agreement," he said, adding that his government was ready to work on a compromise as long as the result didn't lead to additional German payments that the country could not shoulder financially.

"It would be wonderful if the signal from Brussels would be that the EU is capable to act," he said, referring to the 25-member bloc's ongoing crisis as French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed EU constitution and states have failed to reach a solution for the EU budget for 2007 to 2013.

British rebate unjust?

One of the main problems in the latter matter is that Britain still refuses to budge on a decade-old, billion-euro rebate it was granted as the country does not profit as much from the EU's agricultural subsidies.

Schröder und Blair treffen sich in Hannover

Schröder and Blair are not getting along so well these days

"The rebate has no real justification any more," Schröder said and attacked opposition leader Angela Merkel and his challenger in the upcoming elections for reportedly backing British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the rebate. Merkel refused to comment on this during her reply.

Sticking to the constitution

On the question of the EU constitution, Schröder said the ratification process should be continued despite the French and Dutch "nos" and the British decision to postpone a referendum. Schröder said the matter should be dealt with during the Austrian EU presidency in the first part of 2006, when more states have had a chance to decide on the treaty.

Bildergalerie Angela Merkel Zusatzbild

Merkel (left) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish capital Ankara in February 2004

He also criticized the opposition Christian Democrats for again questioning membership negotiations with Turkey. The opposition rejects Turkish membership and has instead called for a "privileged partnership."

Germany's ratification of the constitution was halted Wednesday after President Horst Köhler decided to wait with signing the document as a legal complaint against the constitution is still pending before Germany's highest court. But ratification is highly likely eventually as an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians approved the constitution in May.

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