Blair calls for elected European leader
Former British prime minister Tony Blair on Thursday warned the European Union that it must elect a leader or face being left behind by the world's emerging economies.
The former Labour party leader told The Times newspaper that unless the bloc adopted "strong, collective leadership and direction", it would end up trailing in the wake of China, India and Brazil.
Blair shrugged off public fears about more control passing into the hands of EU institutions and called for a shift in the perception of the bloc's role from one as a peacemaker to one as a world superpower.
"For Europe, the crucial thing is to understand that the only way that you will get support for Europe today is not on the basis of a sort of postwar view that the EU is necessary for peace," he argued.
"For my children's generation, that is just a bizarre argument. They don't see that as a real threat.
"What they can understand completely is that in a world in particular in which China is going to become the dominant power of the 21st century, it is sensible for Europe to combine together, to use its collective weight in order to achieve influence," he added.
The divisive former leader, who was once touted as a possible candidate for the job of president of the European Council, believes that the accountability of an elected leader would outweigh concerns over a concentration of power.
"If you want to have a debate about the direction of Europe it seems to me very hard to have that on a European-wide basis unless you have some means by which people elect something that is Europe-wide in nature," he said.
"We won't have the weight and influence a country like Britain needs unless we're part of that European power as well," he added.
Blair's radical proposal, which he admits has "no chance of being accepted at the present time", would see a leader representing the EU's interest on the world stage while at the same time presiding over the union of member states.
Blair urged for the completion of the single market and for common European policies on energy, defence, immigration and organised crime.
Turning to the ongoing "Arab Spring" uprisings, the Middle East envoy warned that deep-rooted change needed to be implemented to ensure the unrest was not hijacked by extremists.
"This is a situation in which you definitely need a plan," he said.
"If you get a situation where people get the right to vote but no other change, no jobs, then two or three years down the line other people will say that Islam is the answer. So our task is not to be spectators," he cautioned.
© 2011 AFP