Britain wins support for reform from Germany's bestselling paper

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair has used Germany's big-selling newspaper, Bild, to publicise his demands for radical reform of EU finances.

Tony Blair has used Germany's big-selling newspaper, Bild, to publicise his demands for radical reform of EU finances.

Mr Blair's extraordinary media play delivered a stiff rebuke to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and has put him at loggerheads with his erstwhile European ally.

In a page two article headlined "EU money for jobs, not for cows", Mr Blair argued that the EU needed a budget that created jobs rather than one catering to special interests. "We have to invest in innovation and education, not finance every cow with €2 a day," Mr Blair wrote, claiming that 40 per cent of the EU budget was spent on agriculture where "less than five per cent of the population works". His appeal was supported by a Bild editorial which insisted: "Tony Blair is right to declare war on EU- subsidy mentality", and a front-page article listing 19 ways in which the EU allegedly "wasted" millions of German taxpayers' money.

Mr Blair's foray into Germany's largest-circulation newspaper amounted to a slight to Mr Schröder who, 24 hours before, had suggested Britain's EU policy amounted to little more than reducing the European Union to a "big free trade area", as it appeared to appeal to Germans over the heads of their own leaders.

It coincided with growing public unease in Germany over the way EU affairs are being run. Recent opinion polls have suggested that 96 per cent of the population would vote against the EU constitution given the chance.

Georg Streiter, Bild's political editor said the paper had been offered Mr Blair's campaigning article at very short notice.

"Mr Blair is at the centre of the debate on Europe - it is a pity that he is not running for the German Chancellor's job," he added.

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