Speaking in Germany, Blair said that a Europe-wide vote on the position, currently held by Herman Van Rompuy and decided on by EU heads of state as part of their usual institutional wrangling, would help bring the EU closer to its citizens. There have already been similar calls in EU circles for a directly elected president of the European Commission.
He may not be breaking new ground, but Blair, like George Soros in the same week, acknowledges the reality of a fracturing Europe, and the need for solidarity. “The euro crisis, however, has turned the EU into something radically different.
Blair, too, is thinking about deepening European ties in the name of genuine solidarity, rather than simple need. “If Eurozone structures end up with a Europe that is fundamentally divided politically as well as economically; rather than a Europe with one political settlement that accommodates different levels of integration within it, the EU as we know it will be on a path to break up,” he said.
As an economic union, it is logical that the EU, from an integrationist point of view, needs a coherent economic policy to beat the crisis.
Whether or not a strong leader at the top of the council one who is allowed to overshadow the high representative for foreign affairs, can do this is a talking point; but the debate needs to be had. European elections are scheduled for the first half of 2014, not that long away in real terms.
Talk in European circles right now is, rightly, focused on the budget; after that what next? Tony Blair may not be the answer to our problems, but if those ideas, like those put forward by George Soros, aren’t debated, then the status quo remains.