France opposes an 'EU core'

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FRANCE and Spain joined forces yesterday to throw doubt on a proposal by Germany to build the European Union (EU) on a 'hard core' of five countries committed to rapid integration.

President Francois Mitterrand and Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez made clear their reservations, in separate interviews, at the start of a two-day Franco-Spanish summit in the south of France.

'Talking about 'cores' and 'circles' conveys the impression of a static Europe where some would be in and others would be out, which is not acceptable because Europe is dynamic,' Mr Mitterrand told the French daily La Depeche du Midi.

Mr Gonzalez told Le Figaro that, even though some EU countries were clearly moving more quickly than others to integration, he opposed the principle of a multi-speed Europe. Spain has expressed concern at the German proposal because it limits the countries eligible for rapid integration to Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Mr Mitterrand was careful not to dismiss the German initiative completely.

He said that if a 'hard core' Europe emerged it should include Spain, and a couple of other unnamed countries, in addition to the five mentioned in the German policy document.

France and Spain are co-ordinating their EU policies closely because they will hold the EU presidency for six months in succession after the German presidency finishes at the end of December. France and Spain see eye-to- eye on the need to direct more EU attention to the problems of the Mediterranean area, and, in particular, to avert the danger of political instability in North Africa that could lead to uncontrolled immigration.

Spain would like to convene an economic and security conference among EU and Mediterranean countries after it takes over the EU presidency in July 1995.

Manuel Marin, one of Spain's two members on the Commission, said the talks should draw up a charter of co-operation on issues such as trade, oil, terrorism and immigration.