Blair calls for elected EU leader
The European Union needs a directly elected leader if it is stand up to the economic and military power of emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil – according to Tony Blair.
In an interview with The Times newspaper published today, the former British prime minister accepted that the idea had no chance of winning support in the near future – but said a leader chosen by an electorate of 386 million people would give Europe greater authority on the world stage.
Describing the view that the EU remains essential for maintaining peace as a "bizarre argument," Blair said that the rationale for European cooperation was now power on the global stage.
"Europe has got a fantastic opportunity, but only if it's prepared to reform and change radically in the way it works," he said, adding that the UK could maintain influence only as part of he called the "European power". He called for deeper integration in policy areas including tax, energy, defence, immigration, and organised crime.
Blair was in the running for the job of President of the European Council before the appointment of Herman Van Rompuy in 2009 and he told The Times that he should have raised the subject of an elected leader at the time. "It would have been better to have got into an argument then about what the European president was supposed to do," he said.
The European Union's only directly elected institution is its Parliament, but voters have little love for it, according to Blair – who then failed to identify his own MEP.
"If you want to have a debate about the direction of Europe it seems to me very hard to have that on a European-wide basis unless you have some means by which people elect something that is Europe-wide in nature," Blair said. The interview marked the paperback publication of his autobiography.