Selfish, ignorant, dangerous: Europe's anger over Cameron speech
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Finland's Europe minister, Alex Stubb, said he did not think Cameron wanted to quit the EU.
"He wants to get this discussion done and clarify Britain's position in the EU once and for all. In that sense I do respect his line," he said.
Cameron gave EU leaders advance warning of his speech and some, even if they did not like what they heard, agreed with him that it was high time for an honest debate about reform.
"It is time, as Cameron said, for a more intense debate on democracy and transparency in the EU," said Sweden's EU Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson. "But we can discuss these issues within the EU."
EU diplomats said plans for a referendum in 2015-2017, based on proposals that had not yet been proposed much less negotiated, allowed for far too much uncertainty.
"Basically it boiled down to: 'Let's re-elect me, let's then change our ties with Europe, and then let's have a referendum on something that's not defined yet'," said one EU diplomat.
Peter Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner and veteran British government minister from Cameron's Labour opposition, called it a "schizophrenic" speech and said Europe would not respond positively to being treated as a "cafeteria service where you bring your own tray and leave with what you want".
Jolyon Howorth, a British scholar of European politics, said the EU might be better off without Britain as it would then be free to work towards the vision of a federal Europe, "unhampered by the brake-man on the caboose".