Germany says wants Britain as an active EU partner

BERLIN Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:20pm GMT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin wants Britain to remain an active and constructive partner in the European Union, joining a growing international debate on the course of London's future ties with the bloc.

He spoke a day after the head of the German parliament's influential European Affairs Committee warned British Prime Minister David Cameron against trying to "blackmail" other states when considering Britain's position.

"With regard to the current debate ... Germany would like to see a Britain that remains a constructive and active partner in the EU," Westerwelle told Spiegel Online.

"Europe will in future continue to have different levels of integration, but we would like to see a deeper and improved EU, for all 27 states, with Great Britain."

Westerwelle's comments were more measured than those of Gunther Krichbaum of Germany's European Affairs Committee, who told Cameron during a visit to London that he risked isolating Britain and paralysing European integration if he held a referendum on relations with the EU.

Cameron is expected to deliver a major speech later this month in which he will set out which powers he wants Britain to repatriate from the 27-member EU, along with the terms of a historic vote on the subject that could help define Britain's role in international affairs for decades.

Britain on Friday sought to counter perceptions of discord with the United States over the European Union, saying U.S. President Barack Obama had told Cameron that he supported his drive to renegotiate Britain's EU membership.

Earlier this week Philip H. Gordon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told a media briefing that Washington feared a British exit would run counter to US interests.

Britain's Minister for Europe, David Lidington, is due in Berlin on Monday for bilateral talks on economic integration and the future of the European Union.

(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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