david cameron.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister David Cameron's bid to gain support for his proposed reforms to the European Union gained momentum on Thursday after "successful" talks with Germany's conservatives followed by a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban.

Cameron felt "very heartened" by the support he received from conservative parties in Germany ahead of an in-out referendum to be held in Britain before the end of 2017.

The British premier attended a party conference hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), whose views on returning powers to national parliaments and curbing benefits for migrants are closely aligned with his own.

"I feel very heartened by the good will I've felt from fellow sister parties and from the CSU here in Bavaria today," Cameron said in an address on Thursday, after holding talks with Merkel the previous evening.

"I'm confident with good will ... we can bring these negotiations to a conclusion and then hold the referendum," he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday he is "relatively optimistic" that the 27 other EU member states will be able to reach a deal with Britain.

"A lot of work needs to be done to come to a decision and a conclusion in February," Rutte told journalists in Amsterdam. If a deal on renegotiation is reached by February, there is speculation that the referendum will be scheduled for June.

Britons are to decide on their continued membership in less than two years.

Cameron is intent on enlisting help from EU leaders in getting the EU reform deal he wants and assuaging eurosceptic hardliners in his base before he sets a date for the vote.

Earlier in the week, he promised to let dissenting ministers campaign for Britain to leave the bloc once he has reached agreement on his demands for reform.

He left Bavaria on Thursday for Budapest, where he was holding talks with his Hungarian counterpart, the right-wing conservative Viktor Orban.

Earlier on Thursday, Germany's mass circulation newspaper Bild published an op-ed by Cameron in which the British leader argued that "Germany can help" push for changes that might persuade Britons to vote in favour of remaining in the bloc.

The proposals he outlines in the article include returning powers to national parliaments, "reducing excessive administration and trade constraints," creating more flexibility for employers and curbing benefits for migrants for the first four years.

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