French President Nicolas Sarkozy headed for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the European economy, ahead of an EU summit in Brussels. He will also meet with Tory leader David Cameron whose party leads British opinion polls.
AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy headed Friday for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the European economy, and a potentially thorny encounter with the man after Brown's job.
Sarkozy's meeting with Brown comes ahead of a European Union summit likely to be dominated by the economic recovery.
But many will be watching his meeting with opposition leader David Cameron, who could become prime minister within weeks if the Conservatives win the forthcoming general election, widely expected in May.
Though both Sarkozy and Cameron are from the centre-right, the Conservatives have broken off from the president's Union for a Popular Movement in the European Parliament and the pair have not met since June 2008.
Brown's Downing Street office said his meeting with Sarkozy would focus on preparations for the EU summit later this month, when the 27-country bloc's recovery from the economic slump is set to dominate.
"They like to keep in touch before the big Brussels summits," Brown's spokesman said.
The Financial Times newspaper said the pair could try to strike a compromise deal over EU reforms which Washington and London believe could damage the hedge fund and private equity industries.
Britain, Europe's biggest centre for hedge funds, is concerned that draft EU directives to introduce tighter regulation could throw up new barriers to business.
European defence is also likely to feature highly in the leaders' talks.
With a general election expected on May 6, Sarkozy will also try to mend fences with Cameron, whose party is ahead in the opinion polls.
The French president will want to assess how far Anglo-French ties could change if Cameron wins power, analysts say.
Cameron has pulled the Conservatives out of the European People's Party, the main centre-right group in the European Parliament, saying they could no longer tolerate its federalist outlook.
The move angered many of Europe's other mainstream parties of the right.
French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche in November called Cameron's plans to take back powers from Brussels "pathetic", and accusing the Conservatives of having a "very bizarre sense of autism" in their attitude to the EU, though Paris later pulled back on the comments.
However, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman William Hague on Wednesday pledged they would play a "leading role" in the EU if they are voted in.
In a keynote speech, he sought to reassure European capitals worried about a return to the battles of the 1980s and 1990s under Conservative prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
"If we win the coming general election, it is our firm intention that a Conservative government will be active and activist in the European Union from day one, energetically engaging with our partners," he said.
Hague said the Conservatives would vigorously promote European co-operation on climate change, energy security, and pressing for freer and fairer global trade, as well as pushing for Turkey's membership of the EU.
Date created : 2010-03-12