Tony Blair calls for directly elected EU president
Tony Blair has called for a directly elected President of Europe, whilst warning of deep political rifts between member states which could lead to the break up of the EU.
Speaking to the Council for the Future of Europe in Berlin, the former UK prime minister said that the European Union’s institution was seen as too distant by many people around Europe.
Mr Blair’s speech comes at a difficult time for the government, with the prime minister, David Cameron, under pressure to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
“The problem with the European Parliament is that though clearly democratically elected, my experience is people don’t feel close to their MEPs,” said Mr Blair.
He suggests “A Europe-wide election for the presidency” would be the “most direct way to involve the public.”
“Out of this European crisis can come the opportunity finally to achieve a model of European integration that is sustainable,” Mr Blair added.
“The present situation is the most serious to have faced the EU since its inception. And as we speak, the crisis persists.”
Mr Blair warned of a growing divide between Britain and the rest of Europe, but said that a stronger EU was the solution.
However, he acknowledged “I can’t see any new political settlement being acceptable without direct popular consent through referendums.”
In response to Blair’s comments, the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage MEP, said “This is the man who would sell his coutnry, for the bauble of EU office.”
He added “This ideas contained in Blair’s speech do however show that even he is giving up on his old dream of Britain being at the heart of Europe, it isn’t and it cannot be.”
“His hopes will be dashed, as I hope will his ambitions,” Mr Farage finished.
In his speech, the former prime minister said “Ultra-eurosceptics – by which I mean those essentially in opposition to the whole Europe project – are on the wrong side of history. The 21st Century case for Europe is based not on war or peace but on power and irrelevance,” Mr Blair said.
Mr Blair said that forging Britain’s role in the EU will be a “tricky task” but he said it is essential that “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.”