Richard von Weizsacker: Europe needs Britain's pragmatism and courage

From a speech by the former German President at the German Historical Institute, London

Europe is at an historical junction. Within a few days the EU will be enlarged from 15 to 25 members.

And what about the draft of a European constitution, or constitutional treaty, or however you prefer to call it? Is it not going to solidify the famous fog on the Channel whose main raison d'être is to isolate the continent? Is Britain to become a strong European co-leader? Or just a looker-on, legally inside, mentally outside?

Under the Irish presidency we will try to agree upon a constitutional treaty. But is there a European demos? Do we have a European polity?

At present we all suffer from the EU's lack of transparency, legitimacy and democracy. There is a sense of confusion about who should do what.

When people are asked where Europe should act, the answers everywhere are pretty much the same: external and internal security, prosperity and the environment. If we really want to achieve these objectives, we need a Europe which remains or rather becomes able to make decisions. In this light some points are important:

* Strengthening the European Parliament's (powers of) co-decision.

* More qualified majority voting in the Council.

* A more solid basis for a common foreign and security policy and a European Foreign Minister.

So far, Europe's learning from history is a miracle, possibly the most exciting on the globe - but not without that unique British character of uniting pragmatism and courage.

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