The European debate may be moving Britain's way

Share

Tony Blair's speech in Warsaw today, setting out Britain's vision of how the European Union should develop, could not be better timed. President Chirac has called for a "pioneer group of countries" pressing ahead with integration as the EU takes on new members, while the German Foreign Minister has embraced an openly federal vision of the future. Now it is Britain's turn.

Tony Blair's speech in Warsaw today, setting out Britain's vision of how the European Union should develop, could not be better timed. President Chirac has called for a "pioneer group of countries" pressing ahead with integration as the EU takes on new members, while the German Foreign Minister has embraced an openly federal vision of the future. Now it is Britain's turn.

As his choice of venue suggests, the Prime Minister will reiterate Britain's commitment to enlargement, calling for a deadline for the entry of the first of the next wave of members. But the speech's true importance lies in the institutional issues he will raise - just as the underlying argument over Europe is moving Britain's way.

The heat of the debate has obscured much light. There is, for instance, a growing consensus that the European Commission should be downgraded in favour of the Council of Ministers. Clearly, too, the future lies not in a one-size-fits-all Europe (hardly possible among today's 15 members, inconceivable among tomorrow's 26), nor even in a two-speed Europe of members and non-members of the euro. The only solution is - pardon the jargon - a "variable geometry" or " à la carte" Europe, where groups of countries step up co-operation in areas they choose; finance, defence, immigration or the environment. Britain's readiness to see a weakening of its power to block such initiatives is thus entirely logical.

The other piece in the jigsaw is the curing of Europe's "democratic deficit": how to bring EU institutions closer to the people. The rejection by Denmark's voters of the euro was less a quarrel with the single currency (to which the Danish krone is pegged) than reflection of a fear that membership would place the country still more at the mercy of a remote bureaucracy.

More power, then, for the Council of Ministers, who are elected. But that is only part of the answer. The European Parliament must get a higher profile. Mr Blair favours a European senate, a second chamber drawn from national parliaments, to ensure the commission does not exceed its remit. It is just one idea among many, but at least we are serious participants in the debate. Who knows, Mr Blair may make his next big European speech in Britain itself.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone