The president of the European Parliament has offered a dire warning over the state of the EU days ahead of a crucial budget summit. Meanwhile, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is set to meet with Spain’s PM Rajoy in Berlin.
In an interview published in Monday's edition of Bonn's General Anzeiger newspaper, Germany's Martin Schulz, who was also elected president of the European Parliament in January last year, warned that the EU's very survival was "under threat." He added that it had lost a great deal of public support.
"When people turn away from a project or an idea, then at some point it will come to an end," Schulz said.
The British prime minister, David Cameron, had simply "rubbed salt in an open wound," Schulz said, when he announced a referendum on Britain's future in the EU. If a British exit were to go ahead, he warned, member states would become "playthings for the economic and political interests of other world regions," and would "plunge into insignificance."
Schulz also criticized what he described as a lack of unity among European governments, which meant EU initiatives were repeatedly blocked.
His comments come just days before the heads of European governments renew efforts to agree the EU's 2014-2020 budget. The 27-nation bloc failed in its first attempt to agree on the 1 trillion euro ($1.37 trillion) budget during a meeting in November.
But speaking on Sunday, French President Francois Hollande warned that although France was keen to reach a deal, he foresaw no immediate consensus.
"We will do everything to find an agreement at the next summit, but conditions are not there yet," Hollande said during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Merkel warns of tough negotiations
German Chancellor Angela Merkel too has warned that negotiations at the two-day summit will be difficult.
"But it is worth trying," the chancellor said in her weekly podcast posted on her website on Saturday. "Germany will try to contribute to a result. We will only be able to see at the end of next week whether it succeeds," she added.
"Germany is one of the biggest net contributors in the European Union. Therefore, what is most important to us is that these funds are used in a way that will really help make the European Union more competitive and effective," the chancellor said.
Merkel is to meet with a number of her fellow eurozone leaders over the next few days in an effort to lay the groundwork for a possible deal. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was due to arrive in Berlin later on Monday.The two-day summit on the European Union's next seven-year budget are to begin in Brussels on Thursday.
ccp/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)