Prodi calls for greater EU unity

ROMANO PRODI, the European Commission's incoming president, called for a new phase of political and economic integration in Europe yesterday, and promised a stronger EU would emerge from the crisis that toppled Jacques Santer.

Mr Prodi, whose backers include Tony Blair, promised thorough reform and an end to EU corruption, but left no doubt about his ambitious visions for European unity.

In a speech that will alarm Eurosceptics, Mr Prodi called for more majority voting in the EU, greater powers for the European Parliament and a "single economy" with "a single political unity".

Mr Prodi was nominated unanimously by Europe's leaders last month to succeed Mr Santer, but his appointment still needs to be ratified by the EU assembly in Strasbourg.

In a politically astute move Mr Prodi defused his main dispute with many MEPs by announcing he would not stand in June's elections to the European Parliament. Last week the former Italian prime minister had angered many parliamentarians by failing to rule out his candidature for his newly formed Italian centre left party, the Democrats. That would have put him in direct competition with Italian political opponents and their affiliated groupings in the Parliament.

Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg, Mr Prodi won support with a strong pledge that he "will not tolerate corruption", and that he and his Commission will drive through "a great age of reform and change. We are not here to conserve, but to reform," he added.

That was enough to win the tacit approval of the two biggest groups in the Parliament, the socialists and the centre-right Christian Democrats.

Both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers should be included in a thorough review of the workings of the EU institutions, said Mr Prodi. There would be a review of the Commission's day-to-day working, and its distribution of portfolios to the 20 Commissioners.

But Mr Prodi also called for "transparent" relations, not only with Parliament, but with the Council of Ministers, the member state representatives whose meetings are held in private.

Although Mr Prodi's speech came the day after a meeting with Mr Blair in London, much of his language will alarm Downing Street. In particular Mr Prodi argued: "The single market was the theme of the 1980s. The single currency was the theme of the 1990s. We now face the difficult task of moving towards a single economy, a single political unity."

One British source said Whitehall would want to know more details of what was being proposed on the economic front, and in which areas greater majority voting is proposed to operate.

A complicated timetable now exists under which Mr Prodi is due to be ratified in May by the existing European Parliament. Between then and July he will discuss with member states the composition of the new Commission, which will have to be approved by the parliament elected in June. Those hearings will probably take place in late August or early September.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links