European Union

EU president Tusk says talks to keep Britain in economic union 'very fragile'

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Negotiations between London and other EU states to help keep Britain in the European Union are "very fragile", European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday, though he said he still hoped for a deal at a EU summit next week.

"I am in a process of intensive talks about my proposal for the UK settlement," said Tusk, who last week brokered a draft accord and will chair the summit in Brussels on Feb. 18-19.

"I am confident that this is a balanced and solid proposal and I hope to finalize it next week in the European Council.

"However, let me be clear: This is a very fragile political process," added Tusk, announcing he will visit the leaders of Germany, France and the Czech Republic among others early next week "to secure a broad political support for my proposal".

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This week he will meet the Belgian prime minister, whose government has been critical of British attempts to pull back from EU integration, and the president of the European Parliament, whose chamber must pass key legislation to enact reforms Prime Minister David Cameron has promised British voters before a referendum on EU membership expected later this year.

As well as meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, leaders of the two other biggest states in the EU, Tusk will visit Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who chairs the Visegrad Group of East European states that also includes Poland and Hungary.

While all EU leaders say they are committed to helping Cameron win the referendum, eastern Europeans are concerned the draft deal to limit welfare to EU immigrants to Britain could hurt their citizens working there. France has doubts on the wording of a proposal to give London a voice in decisions on the euro, even though Britain does not use the EU common currency.

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