Selfish, ignorant, dangerous: Europe's anger over Cameron speech

Britain's European partners heaped scorn on Prime Minister David Cameron's demand for radical reform of the EU and promise of an "in-out" referendum on UK membership, calling it reckless and ignorant of EU decision making.

"If Britain wants to leave Europe we will roll out the red carpet for you," quipped French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, a barbed riposte to Cameron who last year used the same phrase to invite wealthy French tax exiles to Britain.

Demanding changes in the rules was as if Britain had joined a football club and then suddenly said "let's play rugby", said Fabius.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Britain could not treat Europe like an "a la carte" menu from which it could pick and choose policies it liked.

"Cherry-picking is not an option," he said.

Martin Schulz, the head of the European Parliament which with the European Commission was the butt of Cameron's criticism of "sclerotic" EU decision-making, was just plain angry.

Britain was pointing the finger but was "overwhelmingly to blame for all the delays in Europe", said Schulz. "He just wants change in the single interest of Britain and that's not fair."

In Germany, where Angela Merkel's conservative sympathies for Cameron's party are overshadowed by anger at their exit from the centre-right EU bloc and his veto of her fiscal pact, the view is that the UK premier has painted himself into a corner.

German politicians face eurosceptic pressures of their own but say Cameron pays too much attention to a loud minority.

"Cameron is using EU membership as a tactical tool for domestic politics," said Manuel Sarrazin of the German Greens.

The response to Cameron's long-awaited speech was not uniformly negative. Among sympathisers was Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, whose government was the only one other than Britain's not to sign the fiscal pact. He said he shared Cameron's wish for a "more flexible, more open" EU.

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