Merkel Heads to UK for International Development Talks | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 22.08.2007
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Merkel Heads to UK for International Development Talks

As calls for a UK referendum on the EU reform treaty agreed to in June grow louder, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is preparing to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for discussions on global health care.

Merkel and Brown first met in July in Berlin

Merkel and Brown first met in July in Berlin

Merkel's first trip to the UK since Brown took over for Tony Blair two months ago is scheduled to focus on international development, in particular health care for the developing world, though a range of other topics is sure to be addressed during Wednesday's talks.

"The lack of clinics, poor equipment and insufficient doctors and nurses are among the main obstacles to access to basic health care in developing countries," Brown said in a statement. "So the next challenge is to devise, organize and manage health care as a whole."

Issues of infant and maternal mortality rates as well as the fight to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases are also likely to be topics of discussion, according to the British statement.

Symbolbild Entwicklungshilfe Symbolbild Station der Welthungerhilfe auf Madagaskar

Merkel and Brown will talk about expanding health care in the developing world

Under German leadership the Group of Eight highly industrialized countries agreed in June to coordinate action to improve health care in the developing world.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister's office would not confirm the exact agenda whether or not the European Union's new reform treaty, which replaced the planned constitution that went down to defeat in 2004, would be a matter for discussion, saying only that the leaders would discuss "key issues" facing both countries. The pair may also touch on the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Germany, which held the European Union's rotating presidency for the first half of the year, brokered the reform treaty deal at the 27-member bloc's June summit.

Calls for referendum grow

The EU treaty remains a hot topic in largely euro-skeptic Britain. A survey published earlier this week showed that 82 percent of British voters -- including 80 percent of Labour voters -- want a referendum on the treaty. Members of the Conservative Party and labor unions have also called for a public vote.

In Britain there has been speculation since Blair left Downing Street on whether Brown would alter the country's foreign policy and begin to distance London from its "special relationship" with Washington.

Merkel and Brown last met when the newly elected prime minister visited Berlin in his first foreign trip. After the meeting, the pair is scheduled to attend the international friendly soccer match between their countries at the renovated Wembley Stadium.

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