British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s challenging speech to the European parliament on Thursday has produced a range of reactions from its members. The speech produced both jeers and applause as Blair set out his ideas for the coming six-month British presidency of the EU.
Some people are not expecting anything very new to emerge between now and December, and fear that Blair’s vision of what the EU should be will be a diificult fit with the current model. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was among the first of the EU’s leaders to comment on what he had heard. “I agree with Jean Claude Juncker when he says that if the British forge a dealthere will be a compromise, and it will be very close to the one he has already proposed,” he said.That sounds like a daunting roadblock on Blair’s “third way” into the heart of Europe, which may also run into heavy traffic from angry French farmers’tractors. Parliamentarian Jacques Toubon warned some things were not negotiable. “Mr. Blair says he’s ready to discuss the budget rebate, and I think it’s time he proves that,” he said. “At the same time agreements that have been made must be stuck to, in particular the deal on the CAP that runs until 2013”. Former Belgian prime minister Jean-Luc Dehane says he shares Blair’s ambitions to modernise the EU, but fears that because of Blair’s positions he will not be the person to bring about a solution One major problem for Blair is that several EU members blame him for scuppering agreement on the budget at last week’s summit, and may decide one bad turn deserves another.