Apparently, since he has converted to Catholicism, Blair can now become the new leader over the entire European empire with the blessings of the papacy
Alex Duval Smith in Paris
Tony Blair launched his campaign to become the first fully-fledged President of the European Union yesterday by describing the notion of left- and right-wing politics as redundant.
With France preparing to oversee the appointment process, Blair set out his vision of modern European democracy at a meeting of the French governing conservative party by also claiming that EU countries could achieve far more by working together than acting in isolation.
‘Europe is not a question of left or right, but a question of the future or the past, of strength or weakness,’ said the former British Prime Minister, speaking in French.
In his most important speech since leaving Downing Street last June, addressing 2,000 supporters of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Blair said globalisation was eradicating traditional party lines and class distinctions and rendering old political remedies obsolete. ‘It’s about today versus yesterday. Less about politics and more about a state of mind; open as opposed to closed,’ he said.
‘Terrorism, security, immigration, organised crime, energy, the environment, science, biotechnology and higher education. In all these areas, and others, we are much stronger and able to deliver what our citizens expect from us as individual nations if we are part of a strong and united Europe,’ he added before supporters of Sarkozy’s Union Pour Un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) party. Blair, a close ally of Sarkozy who advised the French politician during his rise to power, is strongly backed by the French President to become President of the EU Council of Ministers in January next year, a position he has previously said he was not interested in.
Sarkozy, 52, who appeared at the Palais des Sports rally without his 40-year-old girlfriend, Carla Bruni, offered unequivocal backing for Blair yesterday, describing him as an ideal candidate to run Europe. ‘He is intelligent, he is brave and he is a friend. We need him in Europe. How can we govern a continent of 450 million people if the President changes every six months and has to run his own country at the same time? I want a President chosen from the top – not a compromise candidate – who will serve for two-and-a-half years,’ added Sarkozy.
A UMP party grandee, Jean-Pierre Rafarin, wrote in yesterday’s Le Monde newspaper that Blair’s experience in Europe positioned him well for the post. The position of President of the European Council – which meets at head-of-state and government level, usually four times a year – is due to be created by the 27-nation grouping in the second half of 2008, when France will chair EU ministerial meetings.
At the end of this month, Blair will continue his campaign to win the leadership of Europe when he addresses a conference at the Sorbonne of Les Progressistes, a breakaway socialist party group which has joined Sarkozy’s government. Blair is also due to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month.
After Blair’s speech, Sarkozy took the former Prime Minister for lunch at the Hotel Bristol near the Elysee Palace. Despite support from Sarkozy – who is the architect of the mini-treaty for a European constitution – Blair is an outsider for the EU job. His support for the war in Iraq and Britain’s reluctance to join the euro and other core projects is likely to count against him when EU leaders vote for their president later this year.