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Germany

Merkel appeals for strong UK voice inside EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has appealed for a strong United Kingdom voice inside the EU in an address to the upper and lower houses of British parliament. She said London is needed to help bring reform to the bloc.

Merkel wants strong UK in EU

Chancellor Merkel addressed both houses of the British parliament at Westminster on Thursday, making her the first German leader to do so since 1986 and the first chancellor from a reunited Germany.

Merkel, who began and ended her speech in English though delivered the bulk of it in German, said she could not promise a fundamental EU reform that would fully satisfy Britain, though she acknowledged expectations were high.

"Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment," said Merkel.

Merkel addresses parliament

"Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed," she added.

Merkel said she was "caught between the devil and the deep blue sea," on the issue, which was "not a pleasant place to be in."

She nonetheless urged Britain to remain in the EU, saying the bloc would be stronger with London's presence.

"United and determined we can serve as a model for other regions of the world. This and nothing less than this, should be our common goal, I regard it as the task of our generation," Merkel said. "In order to attain this goal, we need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice inside the European Union."

Speech dampened expectations

Expectations for the highly anticipated visit have been high. Last weekend, Foreign Secretary William Hague described Germany as "our most important partner on seeking reform in the EU" due to its economic strength and key position in the eurozone.

Merkel's speech was more a reflection of her wish for an EU that values a social market system and strong federal system - much like Germany's. That vision for the 28-member bloc contrasts starkly with that of Cameron's, according to DW's Peter Craven.

"For the whole of the last week, it's been clear that David Cameron [wanted the German chancellor to give] clear promises for opt-outs from European laws or European treaties," Craven said. "What he got instead was lots of talk of renewal."

Off to Downing Street

The German chancellor later had lunch with Prime Minister Cameron at Downing Street. During a press conference afterward, they reiterated the wish of both of their governments to "see changes in Europe."

Both leaders also agreed that the EU needed to implement stronger freedom of movement laws in order to hinder immigrants from taking advantage of stronger EU countries' social welfare systems.

Merkel and Cameron also discussed the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.

Coming in response to fears of Russian military aggression prompted by a military drill, the German and British leaders said it was important for "Moscow to keep its word" on honoring Ukraine's sovereignty.

"The world is watching," Cameron said.

Cameron has promised that, if re-elected next year, he will renegotiate Britain's relationship with the 28-member bloc and then hold a referendum on the country's membership no later than 2017. He is under growing pressure from euroskeptics in his own Conservative party as well as the UK Independence Party.

Chancellor Merkel was due to have tea with Queen Elizabeth II following her meeting with the prime minister.

hc,dr/kms (Reuters, dpa)

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