Comment at end
14th November, 2009
Didn’t really mean this, of course. Well, what do you expect from a Blair supporter? The truth or sumpin’?
DRAMATIC “poke-in-the-eye” moment from Blair?
Tony Blair, who has been touted for the new role of president of the European Council, urged governments to disengage state support as soon as possible and concentrate on much needed national reforms. His speech – “How will the financial crisis shape the future of Europe/EU?” – at a “Zurich Business Society event where he spoke against protectionism went down well in front of the Swiss audience but would have enjoyed less resonance in neighbouring European countries such as France or Germany.”
Mr Blair clearly can live without the EU presidency, as referred to recently by Peter Mandelson. But the unvoiced and as yet unanswered question is – ‘can they live without him?’
It is noteworthy that ALL of Europe, not just the present 27 EU members, is included in the title of this speech. Widening of the Union is clearly still part of Blair’s agenda as, it seems it is of his erstwhile colleague Stephen Byers, who has announced his retirement. He is committed to aid Ukraine entry into the EU. (See link at end of page.)
From the ‘Swiss Info’ website comes this article – Blair offers post crash vision for Europe
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned a Zurich audience that a protectionist Europe would be hamstrung in the post-financial crash new world order.
Blair, who has been touted for the new role of president of the European Council, urged governments to disengage state support as soon as possible and concentrate on much needed national reforms.
Blair’s speech at a Zurich Business Society event on Friday went down well in front of the Swiss audience but would have enjoyed less resonance in neighbouring European countries such as France or Germany.
Pointing out that the world was undergoing a major shift of economic power from West to East, Blair called on Europe to act fast to avoid losing ground as China and other countries assume a bigger voice.
We [European countries] have a strong and profound interest in making sure we are at the table – active, coherent and putting forward strong, unified and clear positions,” he said.
The worst thing Europe could do now was to bow to popular sentiment by tangling the financial system up with regulations, Blair said during his speech, entitled: How will the financial crisis shape the future of Europe/EU?
Short or long view?
“There is an apparent clash between short-term populism and a sensible long-term policy,” he said.
“There is a short-term populism that pushes us towards more government intervention. The purpose of government intervention is to stabilise the situation, but going forward what we need is a thriving and effective private enterprise to lift our economies up and through to better times.”
European states are currently divided on how to reform the financial sector following the devastating crash and subsequent global recession. France is leading the way with demands for tough regulation to curb excessive risk taking and cut banks down to a more manageable size.
Britain strongly opposes too much state intervention, with Switzerland apparently more in tune with this low-key policy.
The Swiss regulator this week rejected the temptation to impose bonus caps, but it is set on forcing banks to beef up capital reserves to protect against risk.
Blair outlined a vision to the select audience of the Zurich business community that may raise a few eyebrows in the corridors of Brussels, where politicians are also working on proposals to regulate the hedge fund industry.
“In Europe, in particular, we should play a part in keeping the world trading system open and vibrant,” Blair said. “We need the financial sector to be independent and creative.”
Government reform, instead, should concentrate on making domestic markets more efficient during a period when every penny counts for state economies. Blair urged European countries to slim down bloated welfare systems, sort out the mess of pension funds and drive through policies to reduce carbon emissions.
“Many people in Europe think this is the toughest time to make reforms. In my view this is absolutely the period that government and the state should be prepared to make reforms necessary in public services,” he said.
“Seize the moment not to postpone reform but to embrace it in order to come out of this crisis more competitive, more environmentally sustainable and better able to cope with costs for the state going forward.”
Blair ended his speech with an example of what a united Europe could do when it got its act together, thus delivering a poke in the eye to critics who believe the EU is too disjointed and cumbersome.
“During the crisis, Europe did come together with a cohesion that surprised some people. But that cohesion is more important when we analyse what type of economy will be created for the future and what type of political mechanisms will be governing the decisions that affect it,” he said.
“This is a dramatic moment and it will require Europe to take some very strong decisions.”
Matthew Allen, swissinfo.ch in Zurich
1. Ultra-Blairite & Brown critic Stephen Byers is standing down – Excerpt:
“After his fruitless efforts to change the direction of the Labour Government, it is thought that he did not relish the prospect of years of isolation in opposition and wanted to pursue opportunities in the private sector. He was recently reported to have taken up a position in a group lobbying for Ukrainian entry into the EU.”
Tags: blair supporter, DRAMATIC "poke-in-the-eye" moment from Blair, EU candidate Blair, EU President, How will the finacial crisi shape the future of Europe/EU, How will the financial crisis shape future of Europe/EU, Swiss Zurich meeting Blair, Tony Blair