Blair calls for greater EU
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in
Tony Blair proposed a huge increase in the powers of
the European Union's key institutions yesterday in an effort to
soothe allies and regain the initiative in the
Convention on the Future of Europe.
In a joint paper with the Spanish prime minister,
Jose Maria Aznar, Mr Blair called for a
full-time EU "super-president", appointed for a four-year term,
giving the union an executive leader able to hold his own on the
To allay suspicions that the plan is a disguised
attempt by two of Europe's most nationalist states to emasculate the
EU's "federalist" institutions, Mr Blair and Mr Aznar have also
proposed beefing up the European Commission, Parliament and Court of
The commission would gain the power to initiate EU
rules and laws for the first time in justice and home affairs,
covering areas such as immigration and cross-border crime and
bringing the European Parliament a step closer to becoming a fully
fledged law-making body in all the main policy areas.
The Anglo-Spanish plan is an effort to catch up with
French and Germans, who have made the running in recent weeks
with a series of initiatives for the new European constitution,
including proposals for judicial, defence, foreign policy union and
a twin-headed EU presidency.
The three-page text, written by Mr Aznar's adviser on
European affairs, gives the impression that Britain and Spain share
a similar outlook, ignoring big differences over issues such as
Spain has endorsed few of Britain's copious
amendments this week to
the first 16 articles on the constitution, which establish "the
primacy of union law" and prohibit EU member states from legislating
in most areas of domestic policy unless Brussels gives the
The muscular new super-president, described as chair
of the European Council, would answer to elected prime ministers,
who derive their legitimacy from the national parliaments, stressing
the "inter-governmental" character of a union of sovereign
But it would nevertheless mark a major step forward
in EU integration. The new apparatus would, according to the
proposals, include a "real minister of foreign affairs of the union"
in charge of the Euro-army and the EU's diplomatic machinery.
EU diplomats said the British willingness to give
ground reflected Labour's tactic of negotiating as an EU insider,
rather than threatening vetoes. But the Conservatives derided the
document as a belated change of tack by the Government after finding
itself dangerously isolated in the convention.
David Heathcoat-Amory, a Tory MP in the 105-strong
forum, said: "Blair knows he is in very big trouble. But he is a
master at putting the best complexion on a bad case and it looks as
if he is now going to declare victory by saying these plans were
British ideas in the first place.
"The commission will have massive new powers to
control economic policy and that Charter of Fundamental Rights will
be legally binding, with dire consequences for our legal
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