UK to be assertive over Europe, says foreign secretary

William Hague The foreign secretary is on a visit taking in four European capitals

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The new coalition government will be "assertive" in its dealings with Europe, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

Before the election some people believed a Conservative administration would be disengaged from Europe.

But Mr Hague told the BBC that other European countries would find the UK eager to be involved.

The foreign secretary's comments came as he embarked on a visit to four European capitals.

Mr Hague said he would be urging Europe to act more decisively in international affairs, backing further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear policy and wanting firm action in the Balkans where old animosities, particularly in Bosnia, threaten to re-surface.

BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says that in what some may regard as a strange twist, the foreign secretary is urging the European Union not to lose confidence as it battles with the crisis that threatens the euro.

Start Quote

I formed the view that the new government would be highly pragmatic in its approach to Europe”

End Quote BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt

In particular Mr Hague does not want the EU to shy away from enlargement but to continue supporting the membership ambitions of western Balkan countries and Turkey.

Another area where the British government will be assertive is in pushing for the single market to be extended into the service sector, he said.

But the UK will not contribute to any bailing out of the eurozone and will not agree to measures that co-ordinate tax and spending policies.

Mr Hague's tour takes in Paris, Rome, Berlin and Warsaw.

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