Britain, France see euro reform as possible 'win-win'

Updated: 2015-07-27 23:44


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Britain, France see euro reform as possible 'win-win'

Protesters wave Greek and EU flags during a pro-Euro rally in front of the parliament building, in Athens, Greece, in this June 30, 2015 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Britain and France agreed on Monday that efforts by euro zone nations to shore up the single currency after the Greek crisis could go hand-in-hand with wider reforms the UK needs to stay in the European Union.

Prime Minister David Cameron wants assurances that non-euro zone EU members such as Britain will not see their influence wane in the wider 28-country bloc as the euro zone integrates more, before he puts British membership of the EU to a landmark referendum by 2017.

With the prospect of near-bankrupt Greece's exit from the zone narrowly averted for now, France and Germany have floated ideas to strengthen the 19-member currency union, for example with its own budget, "government" and parliament.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, hosting British finance minister George Osborne, said a "fair set of rules" were needed to protect the interests of those outside the euro.

"We need a fair treatment of the 'out' countries," Macron told a joint news conference with Osborne after the two visited a so-called "incubator" of French high-tech start-ups in Paris' trendy Marais district.

"It is the right moment to reform a lot of things," he said, adding that he believed that agreement between Britain and its EU partners in this area was possible.

Osborne said some of the proposals for euro zone reform took it in an "interesting direction" but added: "If we are going to see the euro zone integrating further, then we have also got to make sure that the interests of those who are not in the euro zone such as the UK are properly protected."

Neither minister would be drawn on details of negotiations due to take place on the sought-after reforms or the timetable of a possible referendum.

Britain's Independent on Sunday reported at the weekend that Cameron wants to press ahead with the vote within the next 12 months, with a polling day pencilled in for June 2016.

The prime minister deflected the question on a visit to Indonesia on Monday, telling accompanying British reporters: "I'll just get on doing the negotiation and then set the date."

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