Letter: Blair needs to be interested in institutions

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Sir: If the European Union is to become a citizens' Europe rather than a bureaucrats' Europe it is essential that Tony Blair and Robin Cook overcome their distaste for institution-building.

The EU has to meet two tests: effectiveness and democracy. Both are compromised by the failure to clarify who does what and why. That is why you are right to argue for reform towards a "simpler, more understandable and responsive political system" ("Blair's chance to lead in Europe", 11 June). To the extent that the Treaty of Amsterdam makes modest progress towards that aim, it ought to be welcomed, although I expect few celebratory street parties in my neighbourhood.

If more of our citizens actually understood the current set-up, they might well challenge rather than approve the new government's continuation of the old one's fondness for state-to-state co-operation and intergovernmental ways of working. The so-called "Third Pillar", in which the 15 home offices/interior ministries secretly negotiate arrangements on visas, policing, immigration, etc, has been justly described as a "bureaucrats' playground".

The letter from Tom Spencer MEP (11 June) illustrated another reason for taking an interest in institutions. The EU's ability to ensure the security of our continent and its citizens - not just in the traditional military sense, but also in responding to global threats stemming from environmental degradation and political collapse - depends on a capability for effective common action.

I long for a clear, transparent European constitution based on democracy and openness. It is all very well for Tony Blair to despise institutions, but he won't get a real people's Europe without paying them some attention.


London N1