EU treaty change would be slow, German minister warns UK's Cameron

EU treaty change would be slow, German minister warns UK
# 26 June 2015 02:51 (UTC +04:00)

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the bloc ahead of a membership referendum by the end of 2017 and has said he believes treaty change will be needed to achieve some of his planned reforms.

German minister Michael Roth said Berlin wanted Britain to stay within the EU and would take a constructive role in the renegotiation, but warned that if Cameron wanted treaty change it would not be quick.

"Let us not deceive ourselves, this process won't be easy. Negotiations on a treaty reform are complicated and usually take a long time," Roth said at an event in London, citing the 10 years needed for the last new treaty.

Instead, Roth told an audience at the London School of Economics that Britain could consider a quicker approach.

"Substantial changes doesn't mean a treaty change ... There is room for maneuvering but it is up to the British friends to put concrete ideas on the table."

Cameron is due to set out his plans at a dinner with other EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, saying that he needs a new deal to keep Britain inside the bloc.

While Cameron has said he supports the EU's principle of freedom of movement, his plans to curb welfare payments to EU migrants in Britain has left some concerned he will seek to limit it.

"Freedom of movement belongs to the core identity of the European Union and we won't change it. Cherry picking is not a sustainable concept for the European Union," Roth said.

Roth, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrat coalition partners, stressed that EU institutions such as the European Commission and the European Parliament would have to take the lead rather than individual EU members.

"The EU institutions are in the driver's seat when it comes to finding a sustainable solution which is acceptable for all partners," he said.