World Bulletin/News Desk
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has sought to convince Germany of his coalition government's plans to curb benefits to migrants from EU member- countries during a visit to Berlin.
The initiative comes as Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government faces pressure from the rise of anti-EU and anti-immigration sentiments and moves to restrict what it describes as "benefit tourism" from citizens of new EU member-states.
"The vast majority of British people want to continue enjoy freedom of movement across the European continent, but they do not want their generosity or the generosity of the taxpayers anywhere else in the EU to be abused," Clegg said at a joint press conference with Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.
The U.K. government's plans received strong criticism from the German government early this month when German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told press that the freedom of movement within the EU was a non-negotiable principle for her government.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel repeated the position on Wednesday, but also signaled that Berlin would take into consideration the concerns of the U.K. government in discussions on the future of the EU.
"The U.K. is an indispensable part of the EU,” Gabriel said adding that recent economic challenges made the European Union more important for its member states.
"We would like to stand together for the principles of the EU. This includes freedom of movement of goods and also freedom of movement of persons,” Gabriel said, but made no detailed comment on Clegg's proposals.
Clegg tried to play down differences with Germany during the joint press conference, saying: "Germany wants to work with us to reform the EU, but Germany also wants to work together to protect the fundamental principles of what we have achieved together over the last several decades."
He claimed his proposals were not against freedom of movement within the EU but were aimed at protecting the interests of British and European taxpayers.
He said: "Freedom to move across the EU is not the same as freedom to claim (benefits).
"Two million Brits who live and work elsewhere in the EU benefit from a right to move around the EU to look for work ... but not seeking to move from one country to other to claim benefits which are available in another country … that is what our proposals are seeking to make clear."
British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to announce his government’s plans to curb EU migrant benefits in the coming days.
His Conservative party has been under pressure from the anti-EU and anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) over the past year as public sentiment has hardened towards immigrants amid harsh "austerity measures" imposed by the government which have led to budgets for public services being slashed, retirement ages extended and salaries and wages restrained.
The conservatives have lost many votes to UKIP, according to opinion polls, and two Conservative MPs have defected to it.
Cameron has responded by taking a stronger line on the EU and immigration to address the growing concerns of his party members, and said he would give a speech on immigration before Christmas.
Last Mod: 26 Kasım 2014, 17:34