Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 12:19:06 PM EST
Tony Blair gave a speech on Europe, and the European Union last night. It is quite an interesting speech; meant mostly for domestic consumption. It packs a puch
Herein lies Britain's - and Europe's - opportunity. The British problem with our membership of the EU may derive from the curious and tortured circumstances of its birth. But long since, it has taken on a unique life of its own. The dilemma of a British Prime Minister over Europe is acute to the point of the ridiculous. Basically you have a choice: co-operate in Europe and you betray Britain; be unreasonable in Europe, be praised back home, and be utterly without influence in Europe. It's sort of: isolation or treason.
More from the silver tongued devil after the break
In the speech he breifly touches on the Constitution
Worse, there became a growing mood amongst European people, that Europe, unable to solve its actual problems, took to solving imaginary ones: by regulation no-one wanted, implemented in ways everyone hated.
This finally took grip when France and Holland voted no. The evening of the French result, I remember being in Italy with friends, and someone saying, in despair at the vote: "what's wrong with them?" meaning those who voted 'no'. I said "I'm afraid the question is: "what's wrong with us?" meaning "us" the collective political leadership of Europe.
And what should happen next with the constitution; and possibly as small admonishment to the Austrians.
No, the issue at present is not the long term vision, but the short term strategy to re-align today's reality with it. Let me explain. I accept we will need to return to the issues around the European Constitution. A European Union of 25 cannot function properly with today's rules of governance. Having spent
6 months as EU President, I am a good witness to that.
But, right now, I say: discuss the way forward by all means, but don't let us get drawn back into making this debate the focus of our activities. If we do so, we will damage the very vision the constitution was supposed to embody.
Finally, he ends his speech by listing a new agenda for the EU.
1. Economic reform. We all say we want it. We all know it is important. Our people need it. Let's do it. The Services Directive. The Commission De-regulation Initiative. The 2008 Budget Review. University Reform. R&D. Science and Technology.
2. Security. All of us are under threat from terrorism. It can only be tackled together. Illegal immigration has to be confronted. Organised crime is on our streets. Let us take the measures to fight it, including on the policing of our borders, the use of biometric visas and much greater co-operation across Europe on targeting, disrupting and convicting the criminal gangs who menace us.
- Energy. Both for reasons of climate change and energy security, the informal summit of EU heads at Hampton Court last autumn put this on the agenda and not a moment too soon. Energy is becoming an instrument of leverage and in some cases, intimidation the world over. Yet as President Chirac said recently, we in Europe have no clear common policy to define our own needs and interests. Let us get one. Get a functioning internal market in place; complete a common EU infrastructure and make energy policy a priority in external relations.
- Defence and Foreign Policy. From global poverty and development to the MEPP and peacekeeping and common defence policy. Europe has a strong common imperative to make our presence, values, and objectives felt. Let us re-invigorate it.
speech and worth reading.