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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 16:25 GMT
Blair's 'limited but solid' summit
Prime minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair says EU leaders "moved forward" in Spain
Achievements at the summit of European leaders in Barcelona were "limited but solid", Tony Blair has said.

The two-day summit ended on Saturday with an agreement on a programme of economic reform including a compromise deal on opening up energy markets.

The Prime Minister described the summit as a "change of gear" for Europe after criticisms that the reform process had stalled since it was launched in Lisbon two years ago.


There is no doubt that this is a change of gear for Europe

Tony Blair
But he conceded the European Union (EU) was still not moving forward as fast as Britain would like.

"Momentum for economic change has been secured," he said.

"I said before this was a 'make-or-break' summit.

"It was important having stalled at Stockholm that we moved forward, and we have."

EU anoraks

Mr Blair accepted many of the reforms agreed by EU leaders would be seen by the broader public as "nerdy" and only of interest to European "anoraks".

The final communiqué included plans for gas and electricity markets across Europe to be opened up to full competition for business users by 2004.

But plans to include domestic consumers were postponed because of opposition from France.

The leaders also agreed reforms to the regulation of road, rail and air travel, integration of financial markets and a 10-year programme of job creation.

Mr Blair added that the free-market agenda promoted by Britain was now firmly established in the EU and would result in greater prosperity for citizens across Europe.

Iraq rift

There were also declarations on foreign policy - with Zimbabwe and the Middle East high on the agenda.

They paved the way for further "targeted" sanctions against Robert Mugabe, condemning the presidential elections in Zimbabwe and promising a high-level delegation to discuss further measures with other Southern African nations.

Police arrest a protester in Barcelona
Police say 29 demonstrators have been arrested
They also agreed in principle to make the European rapid reaction force available to take over peacekeeping operations in Macedonia from Nato once the Balkan state's elections were complete.

The issue of US intervention in Iraq was not on the official agenda - but a rift became evident between Britain and its European allies.

Mr Blair apparently tried to act as a bridge between the EU and US president George Bush, who is determined to halt Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme.

Arrests

But German chancellor Gerhard Schröder signalled he had no intention of participating in any unilateral military action against Baghdad.

France has already made its opposition known - saying any assault should have a United Nations mandate.

Thousands of demonstrators are gathering in Barcelona for a final anti-globalisation rally.

Police said 29 people had been arrested so far, including five involved in overnight clashes with police.

Those arrested included individuals from Britain, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and Slovenia, a police spokesman added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Things are moving pretty slowly"
See also:

15 Mar 02 | Europe
Clashes break out at EU summit
14 Mar 02 | Europe
Protesters rally in Barcelona
13 Jul 01 | Europe
Flashback to summit flashpoints
15 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Labour's union relations hit new low
16 Mar 02 | Europe
Optimism at EU summit
16 Mar 02 | Europe
EU summit agrees power deal
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