Rifkind warns Germany on EU

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The Independent Online
Britain's Foreign Secretary sets off on a journey to the heart of Europe today, carrying an anti-federalist message to the citizens of federal Germany.

Malcolm Rifkind's stated purpose is to address the people of Europe directly, above the heads of their governments, and warn them of nefarious plans to rob them of their power. The German government, he is expected to tell an audience in Bonn, is proposing changes to the Maastricht treaty that would remove popular control over many aspects of daily life and would inevitably lead to a super-state.

Judging from the statements Mr Rifkind has already given to the German press, there will be little room for diplomatic niceties in his speech.

"What we will not accept - and many millions of Europeans are with us - is the attempt to create a United States of Europe," the Foreign Secretary said in an interview to be published today by Bild, the country's biggest tabloid.

The push towards a US of E is coming from Bonn, he will tell Germans. Their government's proposals at the Inter-Governmental Conference are designed to achieve this aim, and if Germany were to prevail in its arguments, elected national par- liaments would be sidelined.

Mr Rifkind will refute accusations that Britain is interested in the EU only as a free-trade zone. He will stress that London will tolerate integration outside the economic domain only if it is practicable and does not lead to further centralisation. "There are limits, national sensibilities and a bottom line," diplomatic sources said.

The boundaries have been marked out in inter- governmental haggling behind closed doors for the past year, and now the Foreign Secretary plans to bring them into the open. Britain is vehemently opposed to the abolition of member states' right of veto in home affairs and justice, and in foreign and security policy.

Mr Rifkind will read out a list of German proposals which he considers anathema. Apart from trying to extend majority voting, Bonn is accused of striving for a greater role for the European Parliament - to be elected on a common electoral system; a Continent-wide police authority; a more powerful European Court of Justice; and further integration of defence.

The Foreign Secretary will not to delve into the discrepancy between Bonn's ambitions and the shallowness of its pockets, though he is expected to mention "real issues" such as unemployment. What gloating there is can be gleaned from his Bild interview, in which he contrasts Germany's record jobless rate with Britain's, singling out the Social Chapter for particular odium.

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