Merkel Addresses Britain's Parliament

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told David Cameron, UK prime minister, that she does not support the kind of fundamental reform of the European Union he wants, but said Britain should stay inside the bloc to help make it more competitive.

Merkel Addresses Britain's Parliament

In a speech on Thursday to both houses of Britain's parliament - only the third time a German leader had spoken there since the second world war - Merkel ruled out the prospect of a far-reaching overhaul of the bloc's treaties, indicating that she was open to modest reforms only, Reuters reported.

"Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment," Merkel, the leader of the EU's most powerful state, said in English.

"Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed," she said.

In London for a one-day visit, Merkel was speaking at a time when uncertainty about Britain's future in the EU is rising because of a promise by Cameron to offer Britons a referendum on whether to leave the 28-nation bloc or not, if he wins a national election next year.

Under pressure from eurosceptics in his Conservative party and from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the run-up to European elections in May and next year's national vote, Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain's EU ties first.

He has not spelt out all the reforms he wants, but made clear he wants to curb freedom of movement for people from poorer new EU member states, combat pan-EU "welfare shopping", cut EU red tape and improve competitiveness.

Switching between her native German and English, Merkel delivered her speech in one of the British parliament's most ornate rooms, with Cameron and the rest of the country's political elite sat in the front row hanging on her every word.

Hers was a delicate balancing act: To be seen to be giving Cameron, a centre-right ally, some support in his quest to win back powers from Brussels, while making it clear that her backing went only so far.

Merkel praised Britain for its role in safeguarding freedom in World War II, for its pivotal role in transatlantic relations, as an important German ally, and a vital member of the EU.

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