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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 20:24 GMT
EU must streamline - Blair
Tony Blair with other EU leaders in Laeken
Blair says the UK must be part of moulding EU change
The European Union will need major change as it welcomes another 10 members in 2004, said Tony Blair as he updated MPs on latest EU summit.

But the UK prime minister came under fire from opposition leader Iain Duncan Smith, who accused Mr Blair of making Europe master over nation states.

The Prime Minister acquiesced once and for all that the master of this will be Europe and not the nation state

Iain Duncan Smith
The Laeken summit saw the current 15 EU leaders plot a roadmap towards EU enlargement, with a 105-member convention set up to analyse the union's shortcomings and propose structural changes.

Mr Blair told MPs an EU with more than 25 members would need more streamlined ways of making its decisions.

Tory fears

The institution's new shape would have to mean the EU laid down the framework of Europe-wide laws and left the details to each state, the prime minister continued.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith: Laeken about creating a European state
Sounding an upbeat, pro-European note, Mr Blair said: "Our role now is to be a lead partner in shaping the Europe of the future, not following reluctantly the shape moulded by others."

But Mr Duncan Smith argued the summit had been all about "a greater move towards a European state".

"Over the weekend we learned the prime minister acquiesced once and for all that the master of this will be Europe and not the nation state," he said.

The Conservative leader voiced his fears about the planned introduction of a European arrest warrant, fearing it could be used for crimes not recognised in British law.

European first

He also renewed his opposition to the creation of a common European defence and security policy.

"It will add absolutely nothing to the process of defending us from the evils that exist around the world and everything to lessening our ability to do so by weakening Nato," he said.

Tony Blair in the Commons on Monday
Blair: Time for Tories to see sense on Europe
Mr Duncan Smith ridiculed the leaders at the summit for becoming more agitated about how the new agencies were "carved up" between nations.

Mr Blair dismissed the charge that national parliaments were being downgraded, saying: "The fact is for the first time Europe is looking at actually involving national parliaments in decision making."

Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy said failure to reform the EU's "over-ossified" structures had meant the enlargement envisaged after the fall of the Berlin Wall had still not materialised.

The Lib Dem leader also welcomed moves to make EU decision making more open.

"The Council of Ministers is one of only three legislatures in the entire world which legislates in private, the other two being Cuba and North Korea," he added.

See also:

17 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair outlines Afghan force options
15 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair 'confident' over EU future
15 Dec 01 | Europe
EU plots future course
15 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Strong support for UN force - Blair
14 Dec 01 | Europe
EU pledges troops for Afghanistan
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