What Europe thinks of David Cameron

The prime minister David Cameron is making a speech this week on Britain's future relations with the European Union.

His long-anticipated remarks are expected to focus on how and when the UK might renegotiate its membership of the EU, including the possibility of a referendum at some point after the next election.

Seeing as Mr Cameron is using his speech to make clear what he thinks of Europe, we thought it was a good idea to find out what Europe thinks of him.

We asked colleagues at some of MSN's sites across the continent for the answer.

Our nearest neighbours France said David Cameron was "not really well-known" in the country. "In the past few decades, only Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were public figures known by the French people," says MSN France's managing editor of news, Jean Martins.

It seems that one particular incident has helped shape a lot of French people's attitudes towards our prime minister. "Last summer, Cameron received a lot of negative coverage in French media when he kindly invited the biggest French companies to move to England," Jean reveals. "This was in response to French president François Hollande's proposal to introduce a 75% tax rate for income over 1m euro.

"Now the French media are back writing about him, with France wondering if the UK can leave the European Union or not."

David Cameron is perceived more favourably in Sweden. "He is a well-respected statesman here," says Anders Lager, senior editor with MSN Sweden. "He reminds some people of our own prime minister Fredrik Reinflet. We'll be following his speech with great interest."

 

"Boris Johnson is maybe even better known then Cameron."

But it's a different story in Belgium. "I think that 90% of the population don't even know who David Cameron is," says Kurt Minnen, editor-in-chief of MSN Belgium.

"In Flanders, the mayor of London Boris Johnson is maybe even better known then Cameron," Kurt continues.

"The former Belgian prime minister and liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt has harshly criticised Cameron's handling of the UK's EU stance, describing it as 'so stupid that even the UK's best friend, the US, doesn't understand it'."

Kurt adds that a number of key political figures in Belgium have raised concerns in recent days about Mr Cameron's attitude to the the EU, which they fear is damaging the UK's economic prospects and "could eventually lead to Britain's withdrawal from the union."

If David Cameron is looking for a European leader who can guarantee him a warm welcome, he could do worse than look to Germany.

According to Joachim Vonderthann, MSN Germany's lead news editor, there is "is definitely one German who wants to keep Great Britain in the European Union."

David Cameron and Angela MerkelAP Photo, Yves Logghe

That person is the German chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently told the European parliament: "I believe people can be very happy on an island, but also very lonesome in a globalised world of seven billion people. I do not think that would be good for the United Kingdom."

Joachim explains: "The relationship between Merkel and David Cameron is considered to be very trusting. Merkel sees Cameron as a close ally on major issues such as trade liberalisation, structural reforms and the fight against an excessive EU budget."

But does Merkel speak for the majority of the German population? "I'm afraid not," says Joachim. "Yes, Germans love visiting London, they enjoyed the brilliant Olympic Games and they rejoiced at the news of a baby in the royal family.

"But Germans have no special relationship with David Cameron. Indeed most Germans don't know much about him. He's not representing 'Cool Britannia' as Tony Blair did years before. Cameron is rather seen as a stubborn leader, who opposes stricter controls of banks and wants his own money back."

Germany would not miss David Cameron very much were he to disappear from politics, concludes Joachim. "But at the end of the day, and despite some British peculiarities, no German can be really interested in a European Union without the United Kingdom."