EU losing support of its citizens, warns Labour

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The Independent Online
THE EUROPEAN UNION is losing the support of its citizens, a high- level Labour policy group has warned. A leaked party document, approved by the Prime Minister, says less than half of Europe's people now believe the EU is "a good thing" - just 46 per cent, compared with 70 per cent in 1990.

The Labour paper will underline British calls for reform as European leaders meet in Cardiff today. Tony Blair will call for political reforms to bring Europe closer to its people. He has also put Peter Mandelson in a group, with Spain, Sweden and France, seeking a "third way" for the EU.

The proportion who believe their country has benefited from Europe has fallen from six in ten to four in ten in the same period.

The paper, produced by a Labour policy commission and approved by the party's Joint Policy Committee which is chaired by Tony Blair, says the EU is failing to reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people of Europe.

"Over the last few years the European Union has suffered a grave loss of support," the document says. "As an organisation founded on democratic principles the European Union cannot succeed without the consent of the people." European summits often seem remote and irrelevant, with too much time devoted to obscure institutional debates.

Ironically, this week's two-day European Council meeting could be overshadowed by German demands for a budget rebate. But the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have made it clear, and I think it is generally understood, that the British rebate is not up for grabs."

The paper warns that in Britain there is public fear that Europe is "set on an inexorable path to a centralised super state". While the drive to open the single market has caught the enthusiasm of business, it has become "a bureaucratic obsession" in the eyes of many citizens. People feel Brussels is interfering too much, it warns.

Politics, page 10

Leading article, Review, page 3

Trevor Phillips, Review, page 4