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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
EU 'must meet global challenge'
Tony Blair in the European Parliament
Tony Blair: Citizens will have faith in the EU if it tackles globalisation
Tony Blair has urged European leaders to agree a new economic direction for the EU to improve chances of reaching a deal on the 2007-13 budget in December.

He told the European Parliament he had identified six priority areas where the EU needed to take action to meet the challenge of globalisation.

EU leaders would discuss these at a summit in London on Thursday, he said.

Some MEPs accused Mr Blair of failing in his EU presidency to tackle crises over the budget and the constitution.

This summit, meant to relaunch the future of Europe, has been downgraded to a friendly chat about this and that
Italian MEP Monica Frassoni
But Mr Blair said that if European governments showed citizens that the EU was capable of addressing issues such as globalisation and terrorism, global warming and immigration, it would have "made a start at putting Europe back together again".

He also said the UK would do its "level best" to get a deal on the 2007-13 budget by the end of its presidency in December.

China and India

Mr Blair said his priority areas for EU action were research, energy policy, universities, migration, and the demographic time bomb, and the creation of a fund to help re-skill redundant workers.

He called for:

  • A European research centre, like the US's National Science Foundation, which would help Europe create world-beating businesses in technology
  • A European energy policy and an integrated European power grid
  • A university sector that could compete with America, and better links between universities and business
  • Recognition of the benefits of controlled migration for the competitiveness of the European economy
  • Sharing of best practice in pensions and social security systems

"We are going to be in a better position to get agreement [on the budget] if we have agreed the economic direction, new priorities for work and if those can influence the outcome of the budget debate," he said.

Mr Blair said he hoped EU leaders would approve on Thursday a European Commission report, which he described as a "stark analysis" of the challenges Europe faces from China and India.

The UK would also put to the summit proposals for a new counter-terrorism strategy that it hoped to agree in December, he added.

Applause and jeers

Mr Blair first warned the European Parliament in June that the EU had to adapt to globalisation.

That speech was well received, and appeared to win over even those MEPs who see the UK as a brake on European integration.

Wednesday's speech was greeted by a mixture of applause and jeers.

Italian Green MEP Monica Frassoni, praised Mr Blair's "performance skills".

"But your skill does not make up for the fact that this summit, meant to relaunch the future of Europe, has been downgraded to a friendly chat about this and that," she added.

Mr Blair said he was aware that an early resolution of the budget dispute was of fundamental importance to new member states.

"I acknowledge our responsibility as the presidency to do our level best to reach agreement," he said.

"I hope that we can do that, whatever the particular level of the budget may be."

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