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Britain, France, Germany Propose EU Economic VP - 2004-02-18


The leaders of Germany, France and Britain Wednesday called for the appointment of a special European Union official who would be put in charge of pushing economic reforms forward. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held talks in Berlin focused on kick-starting economic reform.

After meeting in Berlin Wednesday, the leaders of Germany, France and Britain said the new EU official, who would be a vice president of the EU executive commission, would focus exclusively on pushing through economic reforms within the member countries.

They said in a joint letter the goal is to make the EU the world's leading economic power by 2010.

Mr. Blair said, in the face of globalization, Europe has no other choice but to reform. "Our discussion on economic reform is an attempt to say both to the citizens of our countries and to Europe as a whole that there are real changes that we have to make in order to equip our citizens for this world of change," he said. "And that's what it's all about. It builds on the work that's been done over the past few years. And I think it's particularly important that we have been able to come to agreement on this issue."

The three also said they agreed on measures to help create jobs and improve industrial competitiveness across Europe.

The summit had been dogged by criticism, especially by Spain and Italy, which were not invited, that the Big Three were trying to dominate the bloc before it takes on 10 new member states on May 1.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was among the most vocal critics of the trilateral summit, called it a mess.

But the three leaders denied their meeting was aimed at dictating policy to the rest of the European Union. As Chancellor Schroeder put it, "we are not trying to dominate anyone." And, at a news conference that followed the two-and-half-hour talks, French President Jacques Chirac appeared to dismiss the criticism of the three leaders as nothing more than an attempt to stir controversy.

The trilateral meeting at the chancellery in Berlin comes at a crucial time for the European Union, which is yet to agree on constitutional changes that need to be put in place before the 10 new countries enter the community in May.

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