Blair summit call for EU reform

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The Independent Online
President Jacques Chirac and his Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, arrived last night for their "Docklands summit" with Tony Blair, to be greeted by a new British call for sweeping reform of the European Union institutions.

Returning to a theme that Britain intends to imprint on its coming EU presidency, Mr Blair said Europe was not functioning to the benefit of its people and "necessary changes" had to be made in its structures.

"We're not creating enough jobs; we have to learn to co-operate better," he told Le Monde.

Mr Chirac's first stops were the traditional ones of a meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and dinner at 10 Downing Street.

Thereafter, the tempo and setting change completely, to serious talks, not in Whitehall but in the steel and glass modernity of Canary Wharf, intended by Mr Blair as a showcase for his new and youthful Britain. The decor, the menu, even the views of the nearby Millennium Dome site, all seek to convey a vigorous, creative country.

During their meeting Mr Jospin said France was doing all it could to help stranded lorry- drivers and Mr Blair pressed him on compensation claims from last year's strike and the need for help for those stranded this year. A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Jospin pledged to ensure last year's cases were properly examined and that the authorities had been trying this year to get more information to stranded British drivers. The French haulage employers left talks with striking unions early today, saying the negotiations were over. It followed union declarations at the end of the session that the employers had not offered enough to end the five-day strike and that the government should intervene to help find a deal.