Blair wants to ban `gatecrashers' from meetings

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR is to call for sweeping changes to the workings of the Council of Ministers, the European Union's key decision-making body, as it prepares for enlargement to include up to 10 more countries.

Britain is drawing up proposals to prevent Council meetings being bogged down in rambling discussions. Ideas include time limits on debates; a ban on "gatecrashers" turning up for meetings they should not attend; and sticking to strict agendas.

The plans are included in a Foreign Office paper, seen by The Independent, which draws on the lessons from Britain's six months in the EU's rotating presidency last year.

Mr Blair sees an opportunity to push for reforms after the crisis which has engulfed the EU since last week's reportaccusing the European Commission of fraud and mismanagement. The Prime Minister has already called for big changes to the Commission and, as the Berlin summit of EU leaders gets underway today, is expected to publish a joint reform programme for Brussels with Austria. It will include the appointment of a "fraudbuster", modelled on Britain's National Audit Office, with the power to summon officials and to investigate all areas of EU spending.

In an interview on the eve of the summit, Mr Blair was sceptical about calls for the Council to be made more open. "It is all very well to say the Council of Ministers should be far more open but you might find it becomes less effective as a body if you did that," he said.