France's Sarkozy, UK's Cameron meet for EU talk
PARIS - Reuters
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C) welcomes British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) prior to a working lunch focused on the European debt crisis on December 2, 2011 at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris. AFP PhotoFrench President Nicolas Sarkozy was discussing Franco-German plans for tougher euro zone governance with British Prime Minister David Cameron over a lunch in Paris on Friday, a week before they are put to a summit of EU leaders.
Sarkozy, who laid out his vision in a Thursday speech for redrawing Europe's founding treaty to create more central control over national budgets, will seek to allay any concerns by Cameron that a rejig of EU governance could reduce British influence.
Their swift bilateral meeting replaces a broad Franco-British defence summit, which would have included cabinet ministers and has been postponed to next year as the ballooning euro zone debt crisis starts to batter Europe's core.
No news conference is planned.
Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are pushing to give Brussels more power to enforce fiscal discipline in euro zone states, ideally through treaty changes that will be put to a make-or-break European Union summit on Dec. 9.
The bloc faces a week of intense diplomacy between now and then.
Sarkozy and Cameron, who have built up a warm relationship during their joint leadership in the Libyan crisis, will sit down together at 1.00 p.m. local time (1200 GMT) to prepare the issues on the agenda for Dec. 9, Sarkozy's office said.
Cameron's spokesman also said the Dec. 9 summit would be the main focus of Friday's brief meeting.
Chris Grayling, Britain's employment and welfare minister, told Reuters on Nov. 30 London was open to allowing changes to the EU treaty if it could help resolve the euro zone crisis by moving a hurdle to closer integration in the currency bloc.
He said London's main concern was ensuring it did not lose influence.
Cameron has said Britain, which is not a member of the euro zone, could seek the return of some powers from Brussels to London in return for agreeing to any new EU treaty creating a stronger euro zone.
Sarkozy, who faces a bruising fight to stay in power in an April election, is under pressure from rating agencies concerned the deepening euro zone crisis is putting France's AAA credit rating under strain.
He and Cameron may also discuss Iran after protesters stormed Britain's embassy in Tehran this week, causing London to close its diplomatic mission there and expel all Iranian diplomats from Britain. France recalled its ambassador for consultations.
European countries, led by France and Britain, have indicated they are considering imposing an oil embargo on the world's No. 5 oil exporter.
The two leaders may also discuss how to protect the Syrian population from the crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's government as the country slides into civil war.