EU's Barnier defends tougher regulation

PARIS Mon Dec 7, 2009 8:48am GMT

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PARIS (Reuters) - Incoming European Union Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said on Monday Europe needed a new growth model and better regulation to prevent future crises, amid concerns over a French push for tougher rules.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy ruffled feathers in Britain last week by boasting that Barnier's appointment was a victory for Paris and loss for free-market London. Britain's financial sector fears being undermined by tighter regulation.

In a French television interview, Barnier tried to quell British fears by saying he would represent the interests of all EU members and continue his more liberal predecessor Charlie McCreevy's policies on new rules for hedge funds and tax havens.

"But obviously times are different now," he said on Canal Plus television. "Faced with the exit from the crisis that we're trying to shape, faced with a new sustainable, green growth model, Europe has a role to play."

He said it made no sense to pretend the crisis had not happened.

Asked whether that meant more regulation, he said it meant "more governance, and regulation where needed."

But he also pledged to stand above national interests.

"I won't take orders from Paris any more than from London or Berlin," he said. Last week, Sarkozy said he wanted the world to see the victory of European economic ideals over the Anglo-Saxon model which he blames for the global economic crisis.

Barnier, a former agriculture minister, tried to talk down the diplomatic spat, saying it was a misunderstanding.

"But I'm a calm mountain man and maybe that's a bit similar to British composure," he said.

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