LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) - A senior member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc called on Britain on Tuesday to be less self-centred in its relationship with Europe despite not being a member of the single European currency.
“The British are not members of the currency union but they are members of Europe and they also have a responsibility for the success of Europe,” Volker Kauder, conservative leader in parliament, told the annual congress of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) in Leipzig.
Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s urgings that the European Union should rush through treaty changes for closer political union between its 27 members to underpin the currency put eurosceptic leader David Cameron in a quandary.
The prime minister, who will visit Merkel in Berlin on Friday, faced down a revolt by some of his own MPs last month who wanted a referendum on EU membership.
At the same time, Cameron has to encourage the 17-member euro zone to integrate further to avoid a currency collapse which would also be damaging for Britain, but said in a speech on Monday he is against Europe becoming too “rigid.”
Britain is especially concerned about Germany’s wish for a tax on financial transactions, which Kauder said would put the financial industry on the same footing as other sectors where “every coffee machine carries a sales tax of 19 percent.”
“The British don’t want this and I understand, when 30 percent of your gross domestic product comes from the financial market business in the City of London,” Kauder told the CDU in a speech that earned strong applause.
He added that it was not acceptable for Britain to be “only defending its own interests” rather than those of the wider EU. He said that if the whole EU did not agree to implement the financial transactions tax, the euro zone should go it alone.
Kauder also used his keynote speech at the CDU congress to warn Turkey that if it wants to join the EU it has to consider the European “value system based on our Judaeo-Christian roots” and the mainly Muslim country should respect other faiths.
“Just like the Turks and others can build their religious institutions here, we expect Christians to be able to build their churches in Turkey,” he said to loud applause.
Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Andrew Heavens