UK Politics

Nick Clegg warns against 'divisive and weaker' EU

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Media captionNick Clegg: "Any decision that affects the 27 must always be taken by the 27"

Nick Clegg has warned against creating a "divisive and weaker" Europe by allowing eurozone states to act against the interests of other EU members.

The UK deputy prime minister said "euro ins" must not be set against "euro outs", in a speech in Poland.

It comes after the German parliament approved new powers for an extended eurozone bailout fund.

Mr Clegg warned against the dangers of "fragmentation" as efforts continue to try to resolve the debt crisis.

In a speech to the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw, Mr Clegg echoed Chancellor George Osborne's view that there needed to be more fiscal integration within the eurozone.

But the deputy PM and Lib Dem leader said that while the 17 eurozone members should decide the response to the crisis, decisions affecting the whole of the EU should be made by all 27 states.

Any change to "governance structures" must not lead to "a weaker and divisive Europe where the aims of 'euro ins' are set against those of 'euros outs,'" he said.

"There can be no inhibiting of trade, for example, no obstructing the single market.

"We cannot accept arrangements that would privilege the eurozone as a decision-making body over the European Council. It would not be right for the eurozone to take decisions that bind the rest of the EU, above all, it cannot act against the interests of those who are not members."

He said if change led to fragmentation and the EU became divided, it would be a disaster.

"When it has counted most, Europeans have stood together - recognising that we are stronger shoulder to shoulder than we are apart. Now, we must do the same again."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that the EU is facing "its greatest challenge" and changes to the Lisbon Treaty may be required to push through measures to stabilise Europe's economy.

'Monument to folly'

On Thursday, a large majority in the German parliament backed plans for expanded powers for the EU's main bailout fund, despite some in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition vowing to oppose it.

All 17 eurozone countries must ratify the commitment to expand the powers of the European Financial Stability Fund and boost its bailout guarantees to 440bn euros (£383bn). So far, 10 have approved the measure.

In an interview with the Spectator magazine this week, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague Secretary William Hague said he had been right to claim - in 1998, as Conservative Party leader - that the euro was "a burning building with no exits" for countries adopting the currency.

It had become a "historical monument to collective folly" but "we have to deal with it", he added.

Some Eurosceptic Conservative MPs consider possible EU treaty negotiations to be an opportunity to reclaim powers from Europe - something that was condemned by senior Lib Dems last week.

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