Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The case for the constitution

Following on from the "no" case here, this is the "yes" offering on the Today programme this morning from Robert Cooper. Cooper is a former FCO senior official, styled as Tony Blair's foreign policy guru and currently Director General for External and Politico-Military Affairs, Council of the European Union – Javier Solana’s right-hand man.

This is the most successful period in the history of Europe: the longest peace, the greatest prosperity, open markets, freedom of movement. In historical terms this is a miracle, and the European Union deserves most of the credit.

Just how extraordinary this is you can see in central Europe. The countries there are now all democracies and they’re growing in prosperity and they’re all members of the European Union. Once Europe was a source of war; now it's the factor for stability and democracy. This is a success story and I want the UK to be part of it.

To remain an influential player, we need to ratify the constitutional treaty. Personally, I'm not sure if constitution is the right word. This suggests dramatic changes. In fact, this is treaty which consolidates, fixes, sets a stable framework.

Treaty of Rome spoke of an ever closer union implying a constant transfer of power to Brussels. This has gone. The constitution lists the powers of the Union and the limits on those powers. It will provide a stable permanent and predictable framework for Europe and for Britain.

The area that I know best is foreign policy. Here, there’s an important change in the creation of a single voice for the European Union. But foreign policy will still be decided by each country making up its own mind, by co-operation. There is not going to be a European army.

We're now moving into a world of continents, America, China, India. It's difficult for small and medium-sized countries to have an enormous impact on their own. But 25 of us together can be a powerful force. Britain itself has enormous influence in Europe, both in domestic and in foreign policy.

We have never been more effective and more influential than we are today, To isolate ourselves in a body where we have so many friends and so much influence seems completely crazy.

Key quote: "the European Union deserves most of the credit"... hmmm. Because of, or in spite of? We will be posting the Jack Straw interview as soon as we can.

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