David Cameron has widely been described as having been forced to bite the bullet and show his true feelings on Europe these past few days, and in doing so, proved himself a bastion of austerity and a scapegoat on the international stage.
The prime minister has been in Brussels as part of debates around the very contentious European Union budget, which ultimately ended in no agreement and a postponement of the decision.
Herman van Rompuy was in the unenviable position of chairing the summit to determine the EU budget, numbering somewhere around the mark of one trillion euros.
Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands wanted cuts (and still do) of between 50 and 75 billion euros, which von Rompuy attempted to balance against the diametric views of countries like Greece.
Cameron began proceedings with a heated discussion on the administration budget with voa Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barosso. Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel had both made noises about the failure of talks, due to disparate views.
That being said, for France it was not all doom and gloom as they and Poland had both managed to take the edge off cuts to agriculture subsidies, with both countries representing the biggest benefactors of that.
In their coverage of the summit, Le Monde highlighted criticism of Cameron and his inflexible stance. This represents a very definite theme in international coverage of the talks, that Cameron is concerned only with Britain’s interests and finances.
According to the Polish Press Agency, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, has criticised the stance of the UK government, saying:
“Unfortunately Britain is our opponent over the EU budget”
The Polish opposition leader has, however, criticised Tusk, citing that in European voting blocs the prime minister’s party sits with the British Conservative Party, and saying Cameron is not aiming cuts at Poland.
Despite this there was a widespread perception of Cameron being the figurehead of those pushing for austerity in the EU budget.
Spain’s ABC newspaper placed the blame for slow progress on factions fighting – austerity versus benefactors. In this argument they point the finger directly at Cameron for leading the austerity drive.
The German press (including The Local and Spiegel) takes a similar line as well, pointing to an austerity bloc, led by none other than Cameron. This picture is one seen across mainland-European press coverage, including in much-maligned Greece.
The stumbling blocks of the summit were found mainly in the polarised opinions of member states over the budget in a time of recession.
It does seem, though, that Cameron has been largely perceived to be leading the charge for injecting austerity into the EU budget and so is being set up as a scapegoat for slow progress.
Whatever the case may really be behind the closed doors of negotiating rooms, let’s just say very few will be jealous of the task set out before van Rompuy when he has to do it all again next year.