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Europe: Britain Rebuts German View Of European Integration

Bonn, 19 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said today German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is wrong on European Union integration and out of touch with popular opinion.

Rifkind is on a one-day visit to Bonn. He says many EU members are unclear whether they want a United States of Europe or a community of nation states as Britain prefers.

Earlier today, Rifkind said the British government is basically hostile to the planned economic and monetary union (EMU). And he told the German mass circulation daily "Bild" that he does not believe the EMU will start on schedule in 1999.

Rifkind said at a news conference in Bonn he does not agree with Kohl that further integration of the European Union is an issue of war and peace or that the bloc must either move forward or else stumble.

Without naming Kohl, the British Foreign Secretary criticized politicians who focus on "great European structures" and have unclear ideas about how far integration should go.

Rifkin is due later today to address the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank linked to Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and ask how far Kohl wants to go towards a united Europe.

According to an advance text, Rifkind says centralization of power in the EU undesirable and in British minds associated especially with Germany.

Rifkind also criticizes Bonn's support for more EU majority voting as a potential threat to democracy. In his words, "the European Union cannot afford to brush aside the deeply-held concerns of its peoples just because they happen to be in a minority."