Altogether the various reactions below seem to confirm our assessment of member states’ positions towards the different areas of the UK’s EU reform proposals, which we summarized in the ‘heat-map’ above. Broadly states are open to the process (some more enthusiastic than others), while there are some concerns on specific parts of the package – EU migrants access to benefits in particular.

Merkel is “reasonably confident” that a deal can be done

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said via DPA that “there are difficult and less difficult points” on the David Cameron’s list of EU reform proposals. She stressed that she is “reasonably confident” that a compromise can be found, saying that “Germany will do its part as much as it is possible within EU rules.” The latter comment seems to be a thinly veiled reference towards the most contested area of EU reform – limiting EU migrants’ access to UK benefits – and whether this can be done within current EU rules.

The CDU/CSU faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus added:

We have done a lot to keep Greece in the Eurozone. We should do at least the same amount of effort to keep our important British partner in the EU.

Danish PM calls the proposals a “good basis”

Belgium sends mixed signals

The response from Belgium, which is run by a three party coalition government, is rather mixed (not unlike the government itself).

Bart De Wever, leader of biggest Belgian governing party N-VA, welcomes Cameron’s proposals:

Cameron has made thoughtful proposals to strengthen our competitiveness and to build the Union through a bottom-up approach. He deserves credit for daring to show where the problems lie and for pointing out abuse. Cameron’s ideas will not only benefit the United Kingdom, but also Flanders and the whole European Union.

On the other side, former Belgian PM Elio Di Rupo (who is still largely representative of the Socialist party’s position) is critical:

Easter European countries sceptical  on limiting EU migrants’ access to welfare

Poland’s incoming foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, told The Telegraph:

We are not happy about any moves to segregate people according to where they come from. If they want to change the benefits to all people living in the UK then we can’t challenge that. But if Cameron wants to divide people according to their nationality then that is against the free movement of labour and the treaty… We can discuss other matters outlined by Cameron because some of them go along with our ideas on how the EU should develop, but in general we are reluctant to compromise on this as it goes against the freedom of movement.

The Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka said via DPA that “any interference in free movement poses a serious problem for the Czech Republic” but at the same time welcomed the proposal to safeguard the rights of non-Eurozone countries. These comments show again the challenge to properly explain this key demand of David Cameron as his proposal does not attempt to limit EU free movement per se but instead tries to limit EU migrant’s access to UK benefits.

Cautious response from within EU institutions

European Commission chief spokesperson Margaritis Shinas commented on Cameron’s speech:

We see a number of elements that seem to be feasible like finding ways to increase the role of national parliaments, some issues which are difficult like the relation between euro ins and outs, and some things which are highly problematic as they touch upon fundamental freedoms of our internal market.

The leader of the center-right European People’s Party in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, said the EPP is ready to work with Britain and stressed in particular

At the same time, he also added

There are likely to be many more of these comments which largely talk past what Cameron said, or flat out ignore it. He specifically pointed out in his speech that the UK does not want to hold anyone else back. Furthermore, it is undoubtedly true that the UK’s position in the EU would be much clearer if the Eurozone figured out where it was going. Similarly, much of the German press continues to write the speech and letter up as though Cameron is trying to end free movement, which he clearly is not. At this stage, given that he has laid out his position explicitly, this is either wilful ignorance or deliberately misleading.