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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
How should the EU change?
Is the European Union facing a crisis in political leadership? How should it face the future?

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the EU needs to reform to win back public support.

In a speech to MEPs outlining his plans for the UK's six month presidency of the EU, he said Europe should face the challenge of globalisation through reform of its finances and priorities.

His speech follows recent clashes over the UK's refusal to give up its annual rebate from the EU budget unless there were reforms to farm subsidies.

Do you agree with Tony Blair? Can the EU take to win back public support? What difference will Britain's presidency make?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

The British prime minister is out of touch with most EU citizens
Damjan Franz, Slovenia
I think the British prime minister is out of touch with most EU citizens. I do not agree that the British agenda is the best way forward and I would dare to say most do not agree that "modernising", meaning having less job security, which was explicitly stated on many occasions, is the way we want to go. Modernisation yes, but not the Anglo-Saxon way.
Damjan Franz, Slovenia

We should be clear for once on the EU: either it is a loose, simple free trade area or we should leave. There is no third way. If the French and Germans want to try the social model (high unemployment, massive public debt, constant budget deficits) then fine, but they shouldn't expect the rest of us to join them and pay for it.
Tim, London, UK

We need a people's Europe modelled more on the French or Scandinavian model not a business Europe modelled on the US. Blair's agenda of more liberalisation and the pursuit of ever more economic growth at the expense of people and the environment is not what is needed.
Baz Tregear, England

The Common Agricultural Policy is anti-competitive and stops the Third World trading their way out of poverty. It must be reformed.
Hugh Newsam, Cambridge, UK

We are an island, France, Germany, Holland, Italy et al speak different languages and have different cultures. We should get rid of EU structure and the euro and go back to being what we all are - separate nations. Nothing will 'fall apart', goods will probably reduce in price once all the protectionism has been swept away.
Roger Huffadine, Worcester, UK

People need to look past their age-old prejudices
Matt, Watford
The problem is most people are not aware of what the EU does, or how most of the issues the British claim to care about can only be dealt with multi-lateral solutions. The EU has been fighting US agri-business for years now to keep GM crops out. EU-wide policies are the only way to tackle immigration, global warming, the spread of disease, etc. People need to look past their age-old prejudices and see this.
Matt, Watford

I want to be able to travel across borders in Europe freely. I want to be able to work in any country in the EU without a visa. I want to be able to trade with other EU states without paying any import duty. It is in our interests to have a small budget for regional development programmes so that less developed countries can improve infrastructure, grow economically, and buy more of our goods and services. I don't want a European Parliament or Directives. I don't want CAP. I don't want another currency. I don't want outside interference in the affairs of this country.
Peter Dixon, Birmingham

If we want a strong EU we need both sides to make concessions, Britain as well as Sweden and Holland and the countries supporting the Common Agricultural Policy. However, all EU countries have to be aware that lowering the subsidies to EU farmers too much would cause an influx of US farm products like wheat. I have no doubt that PM Blair will be up for the challenge and show the rest of the EU that he really means it.
YMAS, Hamburg, Germany

Let's have conviction triumphing over consensus
F. Luscombe, Plymouth, UK
This is vintage Blair, plenty of fine rhetoric but will he stick to it?? In the end will we just end up with a cobbled up deal and a form of words which mean different things to different people? Let's have conviction triumphing over consensus and free markets over endless destructive regulation
F. Luscombe, Plymouth, UK

The EU's accounts have not been agreed by the European Court of Auditors for the last 10 years now, due to basic inability to verify how the budget is being spent. Corruption continues to run unchecked. Any company in that position would long ago have been shut down. Governments should have a higher standard of responsibility to their stakeholders than companies do. The European Project has failed. Close it down.
Ian Lapraik, Bristol, England

Although I have been a strong supporter of EU, I have always disliked subsidies within CAP (and the huge proportion of budget it consumes). I believe the EU should coordinate infrastructure, environment, education, research and harmonise on legislation to make movement of people, services and goods/ capital easy.
Gasper, Slovenia

Blair is hurting the EU and it shows us that the EU should exist without the UK.
Fabian, Valencia

Language, cultural, religious, social and geographic differences, particularly since enlargement means the monolithic old style EU could not really survive much longer anyway. The UK should strengthen its ties with the US, Canada, Australia, NZ and perhaps India where it has strong cultural, social, language, economic and political ties. In an increasingly global world these are the ties that will matter, not the inward approach of the moribund EU.
James, Epsom

Tony Blair does seem to have the courage to recognise the broader and longer-term implications
Nic Oatridge, New York, USA
The EU has been a great success, with some countries revitalised by it and others becoming increasingly democratic by the prospect of membership. It does have challenges though, and Tony Blair does seem to have the courage to recognise the broader and longer-term implications for the EU of a changing world economic order. The new model of the EU, however, will never be acceptable if it does not embrace the social, demographic and agrarian agendas of many member states - although Chirac's cheap, myopic jibes hardly make a useful contribution.
Nic Oatridge, New York, USA

The most important thing is to deal with the corruption. Instead of prosecuting the whistleblowers they should be lauded. Then make a start on everything else. Either that or get out (my own preferred option). The EU is a joke now. We didn't vote to go into this, we voted to join a common market. Stick to trade, nothing else.
Melanie Deans, London, England

My wife is French therefore I visit there very often. I find while they have better health, transport and social services, their knowledge/attitude towards market competition, fighting global poverty is very poor or negative. They are becoming neo British (living in the past). I think TB is the only leader in Europe who can take this bloc moving forward.
KK, London

Political union should stop. Europe's people do not want a superstate, they want to retain their national identities. What leadership there is, should be democratically appointed and accountable.
Ian, Baidon, UK

Tony Blair is wrong on this point. The French voted No for one reason only they want to preserve the 'French Social Model'. I would love to work 35 hours per week retire at 60 on full pension have their holidays, health service and sick pay, who wouldn't. But it is expensive (for the rest of us), protectionist against 3rd world markets and has caused massive unemployment and France alone is not rich enough to sustain it. The only question is how long can they hold on to it before the rest of us say enough is enough, lose it or pay for it yourselves.
Mark, UK

I think a lot of what Blair has said in the last week makes sense. I am glad to see that he has stopped worrying so much about the personal sensitivities of the likes of Chirac and started to address the real issues. The irony for me is that he talks on the one hand about listening to the people of Europe, but on the other hand refuses to let the British say what they think in any form of vote, whether about the Constitution or the wider issue of EU membership. Seems like he does not practice what he is preaching.
Andrew, Sussex, UK

Surely a union that wishes to encompass an ever wider span of cultures must accept that a looser framework is needed, along with a re-evaluation of the objectives of the union in a world that has changed so comprehensively since the EU's inception. I applaud Tony Blair for having the courage to use the rebate as the lever to force this to happen. It will be a loud and painful process but will either succeed to the benefit of all, or it will demonstrate that the project as it stands no longer works in the face of globalisation.
Dave Hollick, Fareham, Hants, UK

I would be nice if the EU could somehow gather enough control over our money that their annual accounts could be signed off. Ten years without any real notion of where our cash has gone!
J, Scotland

The point is that Europe must change or it will fail. End of the story.
Laurent Kuenzle, Bangkok, Thailand

Blair is spot on. Imagine a Europe where the 40% budget wasted on Agriculture was instead spent on technology, innovation and environmental reform.
Mike, Leeds

As a Briton working in Europe, I see the general perception outside of Britain being that Britain is not sure at all it should be in the EU (or Europe), and is alone in having so many important exceptions (rebate, no Euro, no Schengen etc.). It is therefore unreasonable to expect that Europeans outside of Britain are willing to allow such a sceptical country to impose its vision of Europe.
Change is obviously necessary (that's why a constitution, however poor, was drafted after all), but Mr Blair has too few friends on the continent let alone anyone willing to give him any chance of going down in history as the saviour of Europe. Do not expect too much success under his watch unless he becomes more humble. Europe will always be less effective than such a big block could in theory be, because it is necessarily and fundamentally based on compromise.
W Hansen, Spain

Europe needs to take the blinkers off, face up to the modern world and change
I, Horsham
The EU must get rid of agricultural subsidies like the New Zealanders successfully did in the 1990s. The amount of money wasted on this is criminal. Any talk in this column of 'preservation' of manufacturing is simply protectionism. Europe needs to take the blinkers off, face up to the modern world and change - unless it does, in the short term things will carry on fine as they are; but without fundamental restructure, in the medium to long term it will suffer greatly and wane in the face of a global economy.
I, Horsham

Under no circumstances should the no votes be allowed to be an excuse for Blair to push through economic reforms to liberalise the EU even more. The reason for the no votes was an anti-globalisation, pro democracy movement; the complete opposite of what Blair stands for. Yes, the EU should be more democratic but big business should not be allowed to ride roughshod over the wishes of the population of the EU "in the name of global competitiveness".

A problem facing Europe has always been and still is the definition of being European. We can talk of shared values that no one agrees on, of single goals with multiple ideas of what they are, or even a common history that differs from country to country. Any debate on how the European agenda should be reformed should begin by defining what European is in the first place.
Matthew Stott, Cadiz, Spain

I was listening to an avid EU supporter the other day on TV and was astonished to hear them commenting on one of the successes of the EU - 80,000 pages of legislation! Do we need to look any further for where this project has gone wrong? And until politicians and leaders get to grips with it and understand the vast majority do not want to be ruled by Brussels there is not much hope.
Martin, UK

I find myself agreeing with Blair. The EU is at it's most vulnerable as credibility has been lost with the introduction of the Euro, the rejection of the proposed constitution and the 'let them eat cake' attitude of some leaders to that No vote. If they don't listen to the people they will no longer exist in the long term. Subsidies must go first, followed by rebates, corruption and beurocracy reduced. Or it's a dead duck.
Alan Walker, Whitby UK

You can live without mp3 players but not without food. One day we will need it
Bernd Rennhak, Hamburg

I agree with Tony Blair that the EU has to change substantially to have a future. But I don't think it's fair to question deals on farm funding you committed to just a year ago. Although I am working in high-tech industry I vote strongly for using a big share of the budget to help farming to survive, even if it's inefficient in terms of money. Ignoring this is suicidal in the long run. Local food supply is a life insurance. Other industries can easily care for themselves. You can live without mp3 players but not without food. One day we will need it.
Bernd Rennhak, Hamburg, Germany

Each member's head of government holds the presidency for six months, so at any one time the head of the EU hasn't been voted in by probably 95% of the people he/she is supposed to be representing┐ and this is democracy? The EU as it stands is a dictatorship in all but name; unelected officials governing hundreds of millions of people, and spending billions of those peoples euros, while being responsible to practically no-one.
Simon Whitfield, Peterborough, UK

Farming subsidies may be unpopular but we should stop taking our food security for granted. When did anyone in Europe last die for want of food? If the price of food security is 0.4% of GDP I am happy to pay that. If it results in unfair competition to Third world farmers then Third world governments are at liberty to protect their markets by tariff. I do not want to see Europe's food supply dependent on Africa, when even the richest countries in Africa are making such a mess of their own agricultural sector.
James, Milan, Italy

I have yet to see a successful regulatory or governing body that was built on a set of compromises between many opposing members. EU interference in trade is probably far more damaging and far reaching than we could ever put a figure on. For example, how much of big supermarkets massive profits are attributable to subsidised food production? I believe the EU must concentrate on a simple set of unanimously supported fair trade rules and drop the 'all things to all men' ideology and 'Hitler - never again' phobia.
Ed, Aberdeen, Scotland

Change starts at home. Why doesn't the UK join the Schengen agreement? With factually only bordering with France and Ireland, what is the purpose of border controls when everybody else in the EU can do without? The UK should also go fully metric. Why do EU car companies have to provide cars with odometers in miles for the small UK market? Ireland and Canada are fully metric. So, Tony: Put your money where your mouth is before you play the Euro-Messiah.
Ronald Vopel, Brussels

Blair and Brown haven't the faintest idea about Europe
Guy, London

Blair and Brown haven't the faintest idea about Europe, they don't know what it is and what it's trying to achieve which is why everything they have to say on the subject is stupid and wrong. If, as Blair asserts, Europe modernises presumably by removing some of the protection offered to millions of ordinary workers across Europe, why would anyone want to be a part of it at all?

The way in which he and Brown just shrug their shoulders in the face of competition from countries like China makes me utterly sick. I wonder if his job and the jobs of his cronies were under threat from cheap imports if he would sound so blithe and sanguine then? Cheap bosses and politicians - now there's a thought. And really, as he appears to be incapable of stopping this threat of globalisation, why not get him replaced by someone altogether cheaper and more economical - some kind of robot perhaps?
Guy, London

Europe has suddenly become interesting again. Amazing!
John, London

Asking how is missing the point. The old guard of Europe simply don't want to change, they'll stick to their social models like grim death as unemployment goes through the ceiling and living standards go down the toilet. The G8 summit should be fun, followed by a barrel of laughs as the UK chairs the EU for six months. Europe has suddenly become interesting again. Amazing! The biggest laugh is ever thinking Gordon Brown was ever a socialist - more power to his elbow! Had I heard the speech he made last night before the recent election, I'd actually have voted Labour!
John, London, UK

This was Tony Blair at his very best, simultaneously clearly lying down his vision for the EU without offending all but the most easily offended. If he does as he says, and actually makes progress, we may ultimately end up with a Europe treading a middle path between the American full-blooded market driven philosophy, and the Franco-German social model.

If along the way, the UK can also join up to the Euro and the Schengen accords to integrate us better into the club, so much the better. This could be Tony Blair's legacy and give him a rather more positive place in the history books.
Andrew Taylor, Nottingham, UK

Well, the whole government process could be streamlined as a start. Abolish the EU commission and replace it with a democratically elected second chamber. Keep the EU government machine in Brussels all year round to avoid the expense and hassle of moving twice a year. Reform the CAP and other grant/subsidy arrangements to ensure that the maximum number of people benefit from them instead of as now.

Also take into account unfair market distortions affecting developing countries. Most importantly, stop all moves towards closer political integration for several years because it is clear that several governments are out of step with what their people want and they need to rebuild trust and confidence.
Dave, Cambridge, UK

The EU is an idea that has passed its sell-by date. If we need to think global and respond to global competition, then why on earth are we ring-fencing the EU? European countries should be trading fairly and equally with all countries the world over, not giving preference to a cosy clique of a few close neighbours who you meet for dinner every few months at the tax payers expense. I can think of a much better way to find the three billion to give to poorer countries than giving up the UK rebate. Just get rid of all the Eurocrats in Brussels and save everyone a fortune.
Lawrence, Crowthorne, UK

Tony Blair is right to hold his ground
TP, London, UK
As a gesture of solidarity the UK should agree to reimburse the ten new members for their contribution to our rebate. But in respect of the other 14 who were party to the flawed CAP deal in 2002, Tony Blair is right to hold his ground and insist that any movement on the rebate is linked to reform of farm subsidies.
TP, London, UK

The CAP should be replaced with a Common Scientific and Environmental Policy. Farmers would be rewarded for undertaking measures to minimise damaging farming practices and the rest of the money would be spent on science and technology. With the money saved, Europe really could make great scientific strides, possibly even bringing us the only perfect solution to our energy crisis, nuclear fusion. However, we need to act soon.
Thomas, Birmingham

The future lies not in populism as we have seen it in most of old Europe's politics. The future requires action and Mr Blair has hit the nail on the head. Common sense permeates his speech!
CP, The Hague Netherlands

There needs to be a slimming down of the EU. Wastage and duplication, such as two parliaments need to be cut out, while the ruling elite and the civil servant base within the institutions need to have a lesson in humility and made to realise that they are there to serve us. Finally there needs to be a recognition that a one size fits all EU is a fatally flawed concept. The French want their model, we want ours. Maybe member states should pay for their own economic vagaries.
Ian, Brechin, Scotland

I fear a united Europe is nothing more than a pipe dream
Rob Askew, Stevenage
It's like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Due to the diverse cultures, economies and politics across Europe I fear a united Europe is nothing more than a pipe dream. Maybe the politicians will eventually realise that a European super-state will not work.
Rob Askew, Stevenage

This is the kind of situation in which Tony Blair excels. He is a visionary. It's just unfortunate that most EU countries are still stuck in the 20th century. We need a way forward, not a blind alley cut out by the French and Germans.
Chris, Surrey, UK

Tony Blair's stance is wholly correct. The 'debate' is long overdue. Now the UK has stared Chirac in the eye and said 'non', we must not let up now. We need courageous people who can shift the EU from an institution that is geared to sustaining the idylls of French country living to something that works for 25 member states and the people of other continents as well. C'est bien!
Jonathan Crutchfield, Portsmouth, England, UK

I hope I'm wrong but I'm not convinced that the EU is capable of coming to an agreement to the degree of change that Tony Blair envisions. Political dogma usually wins over economic arguments. The EU has little history of embracing meaningful economic change. EU protectionism can only work in the short term. EU products will become relatively expensive and out-of-date and even more people will be out of work, as we will have nothing to offer the rest of the world
Derek, Nuneaton, UK

Politicians always want the same people to make the sacrifices
Shaun Smyth, Divonne, France
The euro and the EU expansion to 25 members are being paid for almost exclusively by the mass of middle and low income earners. Through higher VAT, higher prices, and "restructuring" - unemployment. Politicians always want the same people to make the sacrifices, but as the saying goes, "to milk a cow you first have to feed it'. Unless some of the supposed benefits reach the majority of people, there will continue to be a large NO to more globalisation.
Shaun Smyth, Divonne, France

I am a Brit who has been living in Germany now for 3 years. The differences between our 2 nations towards matters of competition, employment and entrepreneurialism shocks me. Continental Europe lags far behind the UK and it is time they had a dose of Thatcherism to rid them of systematic inefficiencies. Germany now from a political and economic perspective is exactly where the UK was in the 1970's. I give Tony Blair my whole-hearted support in making us think twice about the European Project.
Gabriel Mancuso, Berlin, Germany

The EU must change its funding in order to fund policies that will revitalise the economies and will show the people its relevance. Reduce farm subsidies to less than 10% and increase spending on research, development and technology. Also we need to distribute funds to the poorer countries with more spending on regional projects.
Matt Wood, Bristol, UK

The cynic in me understands Blair realises that his job as PM is over. The position is now simply to provide a springboard for bigger things. His sights are set squarely on a top job at the EU, one whose position description has not yet been written, and that can be built around him alone.
Stephen Wallace, UK

A six month presidency will be far too short a period to get radical changes agreed
Richard, London, UK
While Tony Blair has a great opportunity to set out an agenda for reform of how - and why - the EU should operate, I fear that a six month presidency will be far too short a period to get radical changes agreed, far less any start of implementation. Don't forget, there are still loads of arch-federalists in the EU Commission and their staff who will still be in role after Britain's presidency and waiting quietly to forget the dreaded Anglo-Saxon free market model and continue as before.
Richard, London, UK

Tony Blair says: "I believe in Europe as a political project. I believe in Europe with a strong and caring social dimension. I would never accept a Europe that was simply an economic market." If Europe is a 'political project' it must, therefore, have a federal dimension. This indicates that Blair is ready - in principle - to accept the supremacy of EU law and surrender UK sovereignty (slowly, but surely) to the European Union. I venture to suggest that most UK citizens disagree with this policy: They want the UK to remain fully independent, and want 'Europe' to be an association of free trading nation-states rather than a nascent super state.
Max, England

The EU needs to get back to basics. It was formed as a trading bloc. It has undoubtedly achieved success in its aim but it needs to stop interfering in sovereign states agendas. Let the individual members do what they want to do, in the way they want to do it. After all, how much in common do all the members in the EU really have? Ireland is booming whilst Germany is in a recession. The French want CAP to stay, the British are demanding a reform. The Dutch want to reduce the amount they pay, the Spanish would like to receive more subsidies and so on. This is why the EU is failing; each member is trying to drag it in its own direction and nobody is getting anywhere.
Alex, Aylesbury, UK

Again Tony Blair says the right things about Europe. The real question is whether he will actually push forward with them. Perhaps he should start pushing his competitive agenda by getting rid of all of the Whitehall Red tape that gold plates almost everything coming out of the EU. I hope for the future of European integration that he can succeed.
Sean Schneider, Edinburgh, UK

Change can be painful but it is necessary to ensure we all have a prosperous future
Tim, Brussels
Blair is (for once) spot on. Europe does need to change in order to survive. Change can be painful but it is necessary to ensure we all have a prosperous future. As long as the rest of Europe can avoid our past and present mistakes - privatising the railways for no good reasons and the future PFI 'burden' our kids are going to have to pay for etc. - it can be done.
Tim, Brussels

Tony Blair is right to stand his ground on behalf of the UK. The whole of the EU operation needs a total reform. It is run by bureaucrats who openly admit that there are questionable practices going on with regard to the managing of farm subsidies. The situation will worsen now that eastern European countries have been admitted to the union. The EU will never gain public support as there is to much arguing about who should pay what and who should or should not get rebates and if so how much. We should pull out and join EFTA.
Alan Glenister, Bushey UK

I am not fan of Tony Blair, but on this issue he is quite right. The EU must change or disintegrate - protectionism stifles innovation and is not fair to the Third World who need to trade with prosperous countries. Also, the peoples of the EU perceive a self-seeking bureaucracy running a possibly corrupt, undemocratic regime along with their large salaries and pensions. The unelected Brussels bureaucrats seem to be able to gloss over the fact that the EU has never had its accounts signed off. It these examples that stick in the craw of the people, whether they be French, Dutch, British, or from any other EU country; and it is about time that the politicians took notice and put their house in order!
Graham, Colchester, UK

Europe as a whole must preserve its production base
Siegfried Jenders, Oberursel, Germany
Taking the Anglo-Saxon ideology of asset management and shareholder value to the limit would mean giving up production and earning income speculating on the stock exchange. One country in the EU could do this successfully, but Europe as a whole must preserve its production base if it wants to remain competitive in a globalised world. Change is needed and welcome, but the British model cannot work for the whole continent, and Mr Blair's speech did not impress me at all.
Siegfried Jenders, Oberursel, Germany

Europe should be about the things that are common between all nations and peoples: freedom, liberty, choice, a healthy natural environment, ability to travel, ability to trade, stability and improved quality of life. We need to do everything possible to ensure these goals both in Europe and across the world.
Chris Turner, Thatcham, Berkshire

Tony Blair needs to take to task the great protectionist ideology that exists within influential blocks of the EU. In France it is now very difficult for employers to get rid of staff if they need to. While we all aspire to the ideal of employers being socially responsible and not shedding workers at the drop of a hate, at the same time it has to be recognised that if an employer cannot easily let go off somebody they have hired then they are unlikely to want to employ them in the first place. And that is now the situation that is happening in France. Wealth creates wealth. Some members of society may become marginalised but certainly not an entire society formed on socialism and protectionism which the have-nots are many and not few.
Mark Andrews, Brighton

The Commission, Council of Ministers, and EU Parliament have got to evacuate their ivory towers. Until they learn that they serve the people and not vice-versa, there is little prospect of change. If the European institutions were run like businesses, the whole lot of them would have been sacked a long time ago.
Malcolm, MK, UK

This is a massive opportunity for Britain to gain a permanent foot-hold in the real decision making of Europe and, with the assistance of newer members and the more Anglophile older ones, wrest away from the Franco-German axis the controls directing the whole project. It must not be an opportunity missed.
Mark, Sheffield, England

It's the superstate policies that are bringing the EU to its knees
Jamie Shepherd, UK
The CAP should be retained but changed so that it rewards farmers for eco-friendly land management rather than overproduction of foodstuffs. The problem with the EU isn't the CAP; it's the mad idea that economic cooperation requires the creation of a superstate. It doesn't and it's the superstate policies that are bringing the EU to its knees. Listen to the people.
Jamie Shepherd, UK

The EU and the single currency seem to have achieved nothing. I was always keen to support the EU, I feel that I am more European than British - but look at the shambles the politicians make of it every time.
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire

Who cares? Get out now and trade with our neighbours, but no more. Good relations do not need a vast self-serving bureaucracy which is totally undemocratic and costs us a fortune. Money down the drain. The only losers will be those who are featherbedded by taxpayers at vast expense. Let Kinnock, Mandelson et al sponge off someone else.
Keith Davis, Mid Calder, UK

The EU must change if it is to survive as a major player in the increasing globalised economy. It cannot go on indefinitely from chaos to crisis. The European electorate being disenfranchised from the democratic process are becoming apathetic most policies don't reflect the views from ordinary members of the public. The warning is clear unless the public have their say in European issues which reflect the needs of the public, the EU is finished.
Eddie Espie, Cookstown

Agriculture spending should go back to national parliaments
Derek Smith, Leeds
Some things work better at a European level, others don't. Let's agree that list once and for all and these arguments can stop. I think the environment, immigration, trade, competition policy and some foreign policy works a lot better at a pan-European level. Agriculture spending should go back to national parliaments and the saved money can help the new countries catch up.
Derek Smith, Leeds

Does our opinion count anyway? Whilst other countries have had referendums on the EU, Tony Blair has decided on our behalf - by not allowing a referendum. I thought we lived in a democracy, obviously not where the EU is concerned.
Linda, UK

Mr Blair has made a number of very fair points about the workings of the EU, but has missed what seems to me to be the main issue for EU citizens. Namely that the EU is an undemocratic bureaucracy presided over in an unaccountable manner by an appointed commission with a very poor reputation for straight-dealing and honesty. The EU must be made wholly democratically accountable to the peoples of Europe, or it will never enjoy the confidence or support of its citizens.
Ian Files, Bury, UK

The biggest need for change is the regime of subsidies in the agricultural sector. There is no justification (other than populism) for protecting an inefficient sector and thereby harming farmers in many developing countries.
Rustam Roy, London, UK (ex-India)

Europe is still a farming area and all the so-called natural beauty has been created over the millennia by the actions of farming people. We must support farmers and farming to keep our countryside just that, not a continuous run of housing estates and theme parks.
Ian Rose, York, UK

He is right to challenge the old vested interests
Nicki, London, UK
I mostly agree with Tony Blair's speech, he is right to challenge the old vested interests. It is ridiculous at best and immoral at worst to spend 40% of the budget on agriculture! However I do disagree with him on one vital point - the voters in France and Holland voted 'No' precisely because they feared the sort of changes Blair is suggesting. How ironic it will be if their vote becomes the actual catalyst for the change they wish to avoid. If it had been the UK that had voted 'No' and the others had voted 'Yes' then Blair would have been in a much worse position.
Nicki, London, UK

Europe doesn't need to change - it needs to give up its ideas of being a super-state immediately and completely. We're all very different people culturally and politically and we shouldn't be pushed together in ways we don't like. And this doesn't make us insular, bigoted or anti-European, our differences are what make us interesting!
Digby Knight, Henley-on-Thames, UK

The people are fed up with politicians for not listening to them, and now they have learnt the hard way. Politicians are not interested in anything but what they want to achieve.
Jim Evans, Brighton, UK

By returning to what it should be - a free trade association - rather than a pan European socialist superstate. The idea of scrapping the CAP just to subsidise research and development is abhorrent. We shouldn't be subsidising private industry at all - just set it free to prosper and reduce taxes instead and make us all wealthier.
Tom, London


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