Thursday, June 23, 2005

Blair Launches Europe Debate

In his speech to the European Parliament today, UK Prime Minster Tony Blair sought to initiate a more wide-ranging debate about where Europe is heading.

The result of the French and Dutch referendums have, in his view, little with the actual text of the Constituitional Treaty to do. Instead, they signal "a wider and deeper discontent with the state of affairs in Europe."

Then, it is not a crisis of political institutions, but a crisis of political leadership.

"People in Europe are posing hard questions to us. They worry about globalisation, job security, about pensions and living standards. They see not just their economy but their society changing around them. Traditional communities are broken up, ethnic patterns change, family life is under strain as families struggle to balance work and home. We are living through an era of profound upheaval and change."

Then, leadership must be given. "When such change occurs, moderate people must give leadership. If they don't, the extremes gain traction in the political process. It happens within a nation. It is happening in Europe now."

The Blair vision of Europe is certainly not without its critics, as has been obvious during the last few days. But its a vision with a clarity and relevance in this age of accelerating globalisation that few others so far have managed to demonstrate.

I - for one - find much to like in what he has to say.