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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 17:07 GMT
Prodi: Give euro two years
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By BBC News Online's Alex Hunt at the CBI conference

European Commission President Romano Prodi has told UK business leaders that the European Central Bank should be given more time to get its job right.

To back up his point, he said that America's central bank, the Federal Reserve, had needed 20 years to settle in.

Europe wants the UK to play its rightful role in the Union, a leading role. But the choice is yours... a leading role, or a country left lagging behind.

Romano Prodi

Mr Prodi told the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry: "We don't need 20 years but we do need two to deliver our job."

Mr Prodi was speaking in a question and answer session shortly after the European Central Bank intervened to support the currency for a third time.

The EC president said he believed that the central bank was doing a good job in running the European economy, and that the fundamental strengths of the economy would eventually lead to the euro's rise.

He described the euro as "a baby" that was "growing up well" but added that until notes and coins were in people's hands it would remain an abstract concept for many people.

Majority voting

In his main address to the conference - his first UK speech as EC president - Mr Prodi warned the UK that it should agree to drop its national veto on a range of European policy areas.

Such a move would speed the move towards a "true" single market, which was being delayed in some areas by "rearguard resistance" from some member countries.

Mr Prodi said that the veto should be scrapped in areas directly related to the operation of the single market including immigration and some tax issues, both of which the UK opposes.

He warned that the development of the internet economy in Europe would suffer if the decision making process was not speeded up and streamlined.

He said: "Europe wants the UK to play its rightful role in the Union, a leading role. But the choice is yours... a leading role, or a country left lagging behind.

"We need you, and in an age of globalisation, you need Europe to enable you to achieve your own goals of peace, prosperity, strength and influence in the world."

British insistence

He said the UK media were wrong to portray the single market as a source of interference and of unnecessary rules and regulations.

"In fact the single market removed national boundaries. In doing so it brought down barriers to trade - often at British insistence," he said.

He said the EU's Lisbon summit this year had proposed measures to develop a stronger financial sector and more closely integrated money markets, measures promoted by the UK.

"The potential of the new economy is enormous for Europe. But this requires a true single market... But I have to say that member states are not delivering on all the commitments they made at Lisbon," he said.

Superpower, not superstate

Mr Prodi said he hoped the UK would support a move to majority voting to agree policy changes in a range of areas of EU operation.

"I know that in Britain many believe majority voting will reduce the UK's ability to say 'no' to the things it doesn't want.

"But I have to remind you, it is majority voting that eases the path of initiatives that Britain does want."

He said he did not want to see a European superstate, instead saying he wanted the creation of a European superpower.

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See also:

06 Nov 00 | Business
Third intervention to boost euro
25 Oct 00 | Business
Euro fuels business gloom
05 Nov 00 | Business
Entrepreneur issues euro threat
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