Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said on Wednesday (10 February) that he had reserved time in his schedule during the summit next week for urgent meetings with EU leaders including Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande to persuade Britain to stay in the block. Mr Tusk outlined his proposal for a deal with UK’s David Cameron last week but a number of EU Member States oppose several parts of it. For example, the four Visegrad Group countries have raised concerns over the possibility to allow London to limit welfare benefits for new EU migrants working in the UK for less than 4 years.
The former Polish Prime Minister, however, defended his proposal saying that he was 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”. Mr Tusk also stressed that reaching an agreement with London was his priority, which is why he has decided to cancel all his obligations to hold “a number of meetings with EU leaders and with the European Parliament in order to help reach an agreement”. He is going to visit several EU capitals to discuss his plan. He will meet German Chancellor Merkel, French President Hollande, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, as well as the President of Romania and the Czech Prime Minister, who currently heads the “Visegrad Group’ of Central European states.
Moreover, Mr Tusk also said he would meet Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, which will eventually have to approve many of the key elements of Tusk’s proposal. “The aim of my consultations it to secure a broad political support for my proposal,” EU President said. Political support is crucial especially given the fact that a number of European leaders see Britain’s demands as a distraction at the time when attention should be devoted to bigger problems, such as Eurozone debt or migration crisis. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hoping that a deal can be reached at the summit on 18-19 February so that he can hold a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU later in June.