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EU congratulates UK's Cameron, urges cooperation

The European Commission underlined the need for common responses to economic challenges in a congratulatory note to David Cameron on becoming Britain's prime minister.

Many European leaders are wary of Cameron's center-right Conservatives coming to power because they are more hostile to the 27-country European Union than the Labour Party which they and the Liberal Democrat party are replacing in government.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU executive, said Cameron's government faced difficult choices in difficult times but he was confident it would chart the right course to steer Britain out of crisis and toward sustainable growth.

“On behalf of the European Commission, I would like to offer you my warmest congratulations on your election as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” he wrote.

“Many of the challenges ahead -- delivering economic recovery, fighting global poverty, tackling climate change, ensuring energy security -- are common across the European Union and require a common response.”

He said he looked forward to working with Cameron on these and other issues, such as boosting the internal market and promoting “smarter regulation”, more transparency and greater accountability in the European Union.

Cameron is widely expected to want to show more euroskeptic members of his party that he will defend Britain's interests strongly in the EU. But European officials regard him as a pragmatist who has more to gain from cooperating with the rest of the EU than in picking fights with his new partners.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats reached a coalition agreement five days after an inconclusive election, ending 13 years of rule by the center-left Labour Party under Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown.

The coalition will have to tackle a record budget deficit running at more than 11% of national output.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said last week that dealing with the deficit should be the new government's priority.

“The first thing for the new government to do is to agree on a convincing, ambitious program of fiscal consolidation in order to start to reduce the very high deficit and stabilize the high debt level of the UK,” Rehn said. (Reuters)