Peter Mandelson: 'We cannot afford to live in a world of economic self-delusion'

From a speech by the European Union trade commissioner to the University Association for Contemporary European Studies, delivered in Brussels
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The Independent Online

Presently, there is talk around that the Franco-German relationship will diminish in importance if there is a change of leadership in Berlin. In my view, this prospect is much exaggerated. Nor do I believe thinking Brits who care for Europe should wish for it. Rather than try to prise France and Germany apart, the UK's aim should be a Franco-German partnership with which Britain is at ease and can work.

The problem with the Franco-German position in Europe has been their difficulty in coming to terms with the depth of the economic problems that "core" Europe faces. "Core Europe", particularly the larger countries, still has an emotional block about facing up to the depth of the hole that the eurozone is in - and it is getting deeper.

We cannot afford to live much longer in a world of economic self delusion. No one likes being a Cassandra, but the political leadership of Europe - and I include in that all of us - is failing in the first duty of politics: to tell the people honestly how it is.

This autumn, the European Commission has got to be bold. It has got to go out on the front foot, not simply with a vision but with a clear programme of action to make Europe relevant to the citizens. It has to step into the vacuum that the suspension of the constitutional treaty has created. My political judgement may be wrong. But I sense that the Commission today has a golden opportunity to assert this fresh political leadership.

Theodore Roosevelt once described the American presidency as a "bully pulpit". That I think is the right concept for the role of the Commission. We alone can persuade the member states to live up to their responsibilities.