British-French tension over the European budget looks set to dominate a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Jacques Chirac in Paris.The French say Blair has not given it his all during the UK’s turn as EU president.In the long-running dispute over EU spending, Britain says that even with its annual rebate from EU coffers, it contributes more than France. Chirac began the week in a fighting mood, attacking the European Commission.He accused it of not defending European interests. The EU executive’s chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, has appealed to the bloc’s governments to get out of the habit of blaming Brussels for the realities of globalisation. Gerhard Schroeder, in a Germany struggling to climb out of a leadership limbo, blamed Britain and the Netherlands when talks on the bloc’s future budget collapsed in the summer. But many German conservatives then said Blair had in fact served Europe well by stirring a debate about the bloc’s future and subsidies. Liberal-oriented Blair refused to let go of the rebate without changes to farm aid that largely benefits France. Trouble with Europe or not, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin will be at Chirac’s side in Paris this Friday; Unlike his boss, he and Blair are reputed to enjoy a favourable working relationship.
Blair visits Chirac Friday, mood inclement