European dream 'needs a new generation of leaders'

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The Independent Online

Shock, horror: British and French politicians agreed on Europe yesterday. Almost.

The future of the European Union – if it has one – is the secondary theme of the Lyon environmental conference. The Labour MP and former Europe minister, Denis MacShane, and the French defence minister, Hervé Morin, attracted a large and mostly young audience to a debate called "The European model. Is it still relevant?"

The two men said a strong and united Europe was more vital than ever when European political and cultural values, and European and American economic interests, would no longer dominate. Both painted a gloomy picture of the present European Union. "Dead" said Mr MacShane; "moribund" said Mr Morin. Both said that it was vital to revive the European dream in a form that would be more inspiring to generations of young Europeans. They disagreed, however, on how, and when, such a revival might happen.

Mr MacShane, speaking in French, said he believed nothing could happen until the present generation of European leaders was replaced.

Mr Morin, leader of a pro-European French centrist party allied to President Sarkozy, said that the crucial first step towards reviving the European ideal was to engage ordinary people in the politics of Europe.