British Prime Minister Cameron wants to promote EU reforms when he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin this Friday. Where do mutual interests lie? What are the differences between the two nations?
The government in Berlin is waiting in eager anticipation to hear David Cameron's vision for a reformed European Union. British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond has told the BBC that Britain is seeking a substantial reform package; otherwise he predicts that the pro-Europeans will not win the referendum.
Cameron can count on open minds in Germany, unlike other EU states, such as France, which is critical of the British prime minister.
The German Christian Democrat MEP, David McAllister, who has both German and British citizenship, told Deutsche Welle, "Generally, Germany is very willing to accept British proposals."
Of course, the details are decisive and the possibilities within existing European treaties must be examined, but McAllister welcomes reforms that would make the European Union more effective and less bureaucratic.
Many similarities between the two nations
Baron Martin Callanan, Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group until 2014 and since then, Conservative life peer in the House of Lords, has emphasized the similarities between Germany, the United Kingdom and their governments.
Callanan told DW that the British Conservatives and the German Christian Democrats believe 'in many similar things: open markets, free trade and sound financial management.' He adds, "We have a lot in common with Berlin," as opposed to, 'socialist, interventionist France.'
Incidentally, Cameron is not as isolated in Europe as the media often present him to be. "Cameron says what many people think," says Callanan. He claims that dissatisfaction with the EU is not just a British phenomenon. In this respect, the British government sees itself as a pioneer. The envisaged EU reforms are actually in the interest of all member states, according to Cameron's government program, which Queen Elizabeth II quoted in her speech to both Houses of Parliament at the State Opening of Parliament 2015 earlier this week.
Amendments to treaties are difficult to make
But how far can the reforms go? A major obstacle would be amendments to the European treaties since all Member States would have to agree to them, and referendums might even be necessary in some countries.
German MEP McAllister says, "There is no leeway for extensive treaty reforms in the near future."
Consequently, the EU must 'look at how the British proposals in the framework of existing agreements can be implemented or how to accommodate London's ideas on minor changes to the treaties.'
Chancellor Merkel has already drawn the line at the four fundamental freedoms of the internal market, including the free movement of workers – which includes the free choice of residence and place of work in EU countries. She refuses to touch these basic principles.
European Commissioner Günther Oettinger expressed the same views in a radio interview with the German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. He said the Commission will not necessarily make use of all its powers, but that there would be no official transfer of powers back to the national level.
Is Europe just a market or much more?
The differing German and British views on European unification reflect a long history of traditions. The British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan claims that the great majority of his countrymen mainly see Europe as a market and nothing more. Hannan does not object to being labeled a Eurokeptic; as a matter of fact, he is even proud of it, he says.
"Being skeptical means you do not blindly believe everything and that you ask for evidence. The problem with the European project is that people put their belief ahead of reality."
The monetary union shows how Greece was accepted on political grounds but against better judgement.
In contrast, David McAllister still holds fast to the German idea of Europe. "I am a German Christian Democrat. To me, the EU is more than just a single market. To us in Germany, European unity is a political project." he says.
As of late, McAllister has been making frequent appearances on British television and radio shows to explain German views. The British people must, of course, decide for themselves in the referendum, he says, but it is important to build bridges and to show them that 'we appreciate the fact that they are still with us.' Is the UK on its way out of the EU? "No, I do not think so," he replies. In the end, the majority will vote to stay in the EU.