UK’s Cameron bows to pressure to take more Syrian refugees

MADRID (Reuters) – The prime ministers of Britain and Spain made a joint call on Friday for structural reforms in the European Union to make it more competitive and boost growth, employment and innovation.

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The article by David Cameron and Mariano Rajoy for Spanish financial daily Expansion plays into the political agenda of both Rajoy, who is seeking re-election in December, and Cameron, who wants to reform Britain’s relationship with the EU before a membership referendum due by the end of 2017.

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The centre-right leaders, who are due to hold talks in Madrid on Friday, said both countries had acted to turn around their economies that, five years ago, “were on the edge of the abyss”.

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“The truth is that the situation in the European Union is not good enough. We have to make the European Union much more competitive and translate the momentum of national structural reforms to the field of the EU,” they wrote.

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Both countries had shared structural problems such as excessive debt and low competitiveness that, if neglected, “would have led to economic ruin in the long term”, but they were now growing and creating jobs.

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“We have learned a clear lesson from all this: countries that consolidate their public finances guarantee the sustainability of their welfare state, carry out ambitious structural reforms and incentivise employment, create the greatest number of jobs and bring back confidence in the future,” Cameron and Rajoy wrote.

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While Britain and Spain had tackled this individually, “the results will be better if we work together to create a European Union that has growth, employment and innovation as its reason for being”, they wrote.

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Growth should be the EU’s main goal, the leaders said.

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They agreed that a “real reform” of the euro zone was necessary but that this should not damage the rights of EU members, such as Britain, that do not belong to the single currency.

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They urged the EU to tackle barriers to a single EU market in services, proposing a “passport” in areas such as engineering and accountancy, to permit a company that has approval to operate in one EU country to do business in all of them.

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They also called for measures to boost the digital economy, such as a simple system for online companies to register in other countries and to have access to Internet domains.

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They urged the EU to create a more favourable environment for companies and start-ups and to push forcefully for free trade with the rest of the world.

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The EU’s main priority should be to conclude negotiations on an ambitious EU-U.S. free trade agreement, they said, writing, “Let’s make it possible this year.”

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