Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Tony Blair: the EU needs a president
In a move interpreted by some as a job application, the former prime minister said the EU could do with a strong leader approved by the people.
He also warned that too deep a political divide between Britain and the core eurozone countries could lead towards a break-up.
"Out of this European crisis can come the opportunity finally to achieve a model of European integration that is sustainable," said Mr Blair. "A Europe-wide election for the presidency... is the most direct way to involve the public."
Europe's millions of residents might feel "alienated" unless they have a direct say in who is governing them, Mr Blair told the Nicolas Berggruen Institute on Governance.
"An election for a big post held by one person - this people can understand," he said. "The problem with the European Parliament is that though clearly democratically elected, my experience is people don't feel close to their MEPs."
Speaking in Berlin, he said the EU must not allow too big a divide to grow up between Britain, which wants to claw back powers from Europe, and countries like France and Germany opting for more political union.
"I would give a stark warning: if eurozone structures end up with a Europe that is fundamentally divided politically as well as economically; rather than a Europe with one political settlement that accommodates different levels of integration within it, the EU as we know it will be on a path to break up," he said.
In a thinly veiled warning to David Cameron, he said playing "short-term politics" is not in Britain's interest and urged the UK to take "a constructive role in shaping this new union".
The Prime Minister is currently under pressure to call a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU from eurosceptics in his party. Other European states, such as Finland, have expressed fears that the UK is waving "bye bye" to the EU.
Mr Blair today made it clear that forgng Britain's role in the EU as it changes will be a "tricky task".
"But it is an essential one if the UK is not to be sidelined and Europe to be without the active participation of such a large and significant member of the existing union," he said.