Blair calls for change in role of bigger EU

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tony Blair called for sweeping changes yesterday to enable Europe to become a "superpower but not a superstate" in an effort to bolster his credentials as a supporter of a strong, reformed European Union.

Tony Blair called for sweeping changes yesterday to enable Europe to become a "superpower but not a superstate" in an effort to bolster his credentials as a supporter of a strong, reformed European Union.

The Prime Minister unveiled proposals designed to boost greater accountability to nation states and speed enlargement to the east while still permitting further integration.

The speech, delivered in Warsaw, gave powerful support to the former communist countries applying for EU membership, the first of which must be admitted by the summer of 2004, Mr Blair said.

But his wider argument came in response to the vigorous debate on Europe's future between the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, the French President, Jacques Chirac, and the European Commission president, Romano Prodi. While Mr Blair has given big speeches before on Britain's role in the EU, this was his first attempt to sketch a vision of Europe's future.

"The most important challenge for Europe is to wake up to the new reality," Mr Blair said. "Europe is widening and deepening simultaneously. There will be more of us in the future, trying to do more."

British policy towards the EU over the past 50 years has been "marked by gross misjudgement" particularly of "hesitation," Mr Blair conceded. Although he did not give any clearer commitment on the UK's entry into the euro, he said Denmark's rejection of the single currency in last week's referendum would not affect Britain's position.

While he rejected the notion of Europe as merely a free-trade area, Mr Blair also attacked the idea of a superstate, an idea that "fails the test of the people", and called for an EU that remains "a unique combination of the intergovernmental and the supranational.

"Such a Europe can," he said, "in its economic and political strength, be a superpower; a superpower but not a superstate."

Comments