Euro crisis: Europe reacts with anger

The UK's David Cameron at the EU summit
Image caption All alone now? Or alone all along? British PM David Cameron at the euro summit

European commentators have reacted with anger at Britain's decision not to join a tax and budget pact to tackle the eurozone debt crisis, though some are not surprised by the UK, which has stood for so long on the sidelines of the European project.

Many Germans are outraged by British Prime Minister David Cameron's move.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, head of the Germany's FDP group, part of the European Liberals, goes as far as to say it was "a mistake to let the British into the EU".

Britain must now renegotiate its relationship with the EU, he said. "Either they [the British] do it on their own initiative, or the EU refounds itself - without Great Britain. Switzerland is a model towards which Britain can turn itself."

Others see the summit's outcome as merely revealing faultlines and deep differences in attitudes towards Europe.

Writing in the Italian La Repubblica newspaper, Alessio Sgherza says that the summit "sank... because of the old but still unresolved division between... pro-European and Eurosceptic states".

Meanwhile Daniel Cohen-Bendit, joint leader of the Greens in the European Parliament has labelled Mr Cameron "a weakling".

German Christian Democrat MEP Elmar Brok, foreign policy spokesman for the centre-right in the European parliament, echoed his sentiment: "If you're not ready to abide by the rules, you'd do better to keep your mouth shut."

Yvan Duvant, writing to the BBC from Olargues, in France, says that as the UK is slowing down the move towards EU integration, it should leave the union altogether: "What's the point of keeping this country in the EU? The British people should put pressure on their government to quit. Maybe the British would do better without the EU. Europe will definitely do better without the UK."


In Italy, too, some are angered by Britain's failure to play ball. "There is an obstacle to Europe and it must be overcome. It's not Germany," Massimo Riva tells Repubblica TV. "Right now, the main obstacle is Britain.

"And this dirty game that the British are playing - wanting to stay with one foot in and one foot out of Europe - risks collapsing the entire system. London must be either in, or out. But they simply cannot sabotage everything."

The country's main financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, calls the move a "British bluff" which leaves the country isolated.

"The British manoeuvre [means] that London now finds itself outside, on the margins of Europe. The first European Council session in Brussels, which should have solidified and perhaps even resolved the euro crisis produced instead, after 11 hours of tense and at times dramatic talks, a deep division between member states."

Seeing things from a different perspective, Luca Gaballo, writing in the RaiNews24 blog L'Europa Errante, calls this Cameron's "Waterloo moment".

"All of continental Europe goes forward, leaving Britain behind - towards a common fiscal policy, rules that will govern finance, work and business. Cameron finds himself alone."

Though French President Nicolas Sarkozy could reportedly barely disguise his anger at "our British friend's'" refusal to compromise, the French press were less surprised.

Le Figaro calls it Mr Cameron's "dangerous game" and writes that Britain has merely honoured its reputation as a dissident nation, never intending to play along.

"No sooner did David Cameron cross the entrance to the council, on the occasion of the 8 December summit, than the sky over the negotiations darkened. He had one aim: to protect British interests."


Seemingly keen to avoid further damaging relations between the French and English, Le Monde reminds its readers of all the things they love about the UK, which, it writes, are "impossible to number".

"From the concept of habeas corpus to the BBC, to Elizabethan poetry to John Le Carre, from rock to the invention of the Sixties, from London springtime concerts to Wimbledon, via Liverpool FC. So many things do we hold dear from across the Channel... But Germany, France and the majority of the other EU member states were right, at daybreak on Friday 9 December, to say No to London."

Although many in the UK might disagree, Le Monde continues: "Brits are not part of this euro crisis. And they have no responsibility for the failure of its institutions to resolve this sovereign debt crisis."

Carmel Magri, writing to the BBC from Malta, agrees and congratulates Mr Cameron on "doing the right thing for all European people, not like our puppet Maltese prime minister. Britain doesn't need Europe like it did in other centuries".

From Denmark, Economy Minister Margrethe Vestager told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that while she thought the plan was a step in the right direction, it was unfortunate that the EU would be split.

"It's good if it stabilises the euro and increases economic responsibility," she said, "but it's annoying that it won't happen through a treaty change with all 27 countries. It's better to stick together than for each of us to go our own way in a crisis of such enormous dimensions.

In Sweden, Carl B Hamilton, MP for the Liberal People's Party and chair of the EU committee in the Swedish parliament, is highly critical of the UK.

"They're splitting Europe. Great Britain has acted in an unconstructive way. 'Unhelpful' as they say in English," Mr Hamilton told the Europaportalen website.

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