Blair says British ideas are reforming Europe

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The Independent Online
A POLITICAL hijacking which would mar next week's showpiece European Union summit in Cardiff would be Tony Blair's worst nightmare come true. Yesterday, he moved to prevent such a drama by throwing his weight behind a new Franco-German initiative to bring Europe closer to the people.

After the fractious scenes which turned last month's Brussels summit on the European Central Bank - the first under his chairmanship - into a public relations fiasco, the Prime Minister is determined to end his six months as Europe's president on a high note.

He clearly sees his best hope in a new mood emanating from Germany, and backed by France, which rejects the notion of a European superstate in which local and regional diversity would be obliterated.

In Brussels, Mr Blair pointed to a letter from the German and French leaders to underline what he sees as the growing appetite on the continent for two Blair inventions. One is a remedy for a Europe "too remote" to be relevant to its people; the other is the vision of a Europe-wide model of employment which is "modern adaptable and flexible" not stultified by regulation and red tape.

In the letter, intended by Chancellor Kohl of Germany and the French President Jacques Chirac to set the agenda for the Cardiff summit, the leaders rejected further centralised decision making.

Mr Blair said he is now convinced that British ideas are having an effect. "There is a gathering consensus behind the idea of a reformed vision of a Europe for the future. People are seeing that that is the only way to make it work".

A list of "no go" areas could be drawn up which would reassure people that Brussels will never be given power to legislate such as on income tax or education policy or as Mr Blair hopes, on the rights of workers to be informed and consulted.