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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Straw calls for president of Europe
Jack Straw
A full-time president would end 'musical chairs'
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has outlined his government's support for a full time president of Europe.

The new role would put an end to the rotation of "musical chairs" where each EU member state takes its turn at the presidency every six months.


Greater love hath no foreign secretary that he proposes a retirement job for his prime minister

Michel Ancram
Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram suggested Mr Straw was lining up a future position for Prime Minister Tony Blair as "president of the united states of Europe".

Mr Ancram also warned that the job could heap too much power on to one person.

Mr Straw made his call for a full time president in an article for The Economist magazine.

He argued the case for a pocket-sized plain man's guide to the European Union - a "constitution" which everyone could understand.

New job for Blair?

It was difficult for the EU to deliver a strategic agenda for the European Council when its presidency "switches from one country to the next", said Mr Straw.

He wrote: "This stop-go comes at the expense of consistency and efficiency.

Michael Ancram
Fears a president of Europe would be too powerful
"I therefore support [French president] Jacques Chirac's proposal for a full-time president of the European Council, chosen by and accountable to the heads of government.

"He or she would serve for several years, overseeing delivery of the Union's strategic agenda and communicating a sense of purpose to Europe's citizens."

Powerful position

The foreign secretary's proposal prompted Mr Ancram to suggest that the powerful position might be in the sights of Tony Blair.

"Greater love hath no foreign secretary that he proposes a retirement job for his prime minister," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Here you are talking about making one man president, elected by the heads of government.

"But just take, for example, the possibility of a change of government in the country from which that president comes.

"As I understand it, that man goes on being president whether or not the government of his country has changed.

"That really does create a very new, a very powerful position."


Tony Blair is very busy running the country and will ... do so for the foreseeable future

Peter Hain
Europe Minister Peter Hain claimed Mr Blair was too busy running the country to be considering taking on the role of president.

"We want to democratise Europe and hold it accountable to national parliaments and to the people, to assert the primacy of sovereign states," he told Today.

"The best way in this context that we think it should be is to have an elected president of the council who serves for a longer period than the six months rotation, where nobody really knows who is in charge and therefore, nobody can hold anybody to account.

"Tony Blair is very busy running the country and will, with the permission of the electorate, do so for the foreseeable future.

"There isn't a job yet. We are trying to create one and the prime minister is very busy sorting out the problems of Britain and the worlds.

"Other names have been put forward."

But Mr Ancram insisted that Mr Straw's plan was part of the "grandmother's footsteps towards a politically united Europe".

"All small steps, all hoping that nobody is going to notice where we're going, but at the end of the day creating what is ... made absolutely clear, the foundations of a politically united Europe," he said.

The claim was rebutted by Mr Hain, who insisted: "It is not about a United States of Europe".


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20 Feb 02 | Politics
20 Feb 02 | Politics
10 Jan 02 | Politics
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