BRUSSELS, Belgium – David Cameron will have an expectant but not especially patient, or even attentive, audience when he meets fellow European Union (EU) leaders at a summit in Brussels at the end of this week.
“Waiting for David” has become something of a catchphrase among diplomats and officials, who say the British prime minister is frustrating them by not yet detailing his demands for new EU legislation ahead of the membership referendum he plans to hold.
British officials insist it is vital to prepare the ground and take time to find reforms to benefit all 28 member states.
But as ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns gear up, a fear of partisan leaks in Britain’s boisterous media means there has been no circulation so far of the kind of written draft proposals that are the lifeblood of the legalistic, and leaky, EU bureaucracy.
“They need leaks like a hole in the head,” said one person close to talks in Brussels. “This is an incredibly delicate operation for them domestically.”
The agenda for Thursday and Friday includes a briefing by summit chair Donald Tusk on the “state of play” with Britain and how he will conduct negotiations before a vote expected between early next summer and an end-2017 deadline.
But few expect to hear much more during a meeting that will be dominated by the Syrian refugee crisis, including relations with Turkey and Russia, and by proposals to bolster the euro zone following the latest chapter of the Greek debt crisis.
“David Cameron is very discreet – and I can understand why,” a senior EU official said after Cameron’s last visit two weeks ago, when he met Tusk, president of the European Council.
British voters’ perceptions of whether Cameron has succeeded in his negotiations will be crucial — making it important to manage appearances of what he will ask for and what he achieves. And it is too early to assess what other leaders will accept.
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