22nd Jan 2021

Blair-Chirac row could 'destroy Europe', warns Barroso

  • Mr Barroso warns against a "boxing championship" in Brussels by EU leaders (Photo: European Commission)

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has appealed to British prime minister Tony Blair to show leadership in Europe during the UK presidency.

Rows like the one with French President Jacques Chirac could destroy "the very idea of Europe", he said in an interview with the Guardian on Friday (1 July).

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"The nationalist rhetoric is self-defeating. It is impossible, it is irrational to come to Brussels and to go back to respective capitals saying every time 'we have won', as if it was a kind of boxing championship. People like that are destroying the very idea of Europe. That is my duty to say that", stated the president.

The EU executive chief will attend the official launch of the British six-month presidency in London today (i July), and later give a joint press conference with the UK prime minister Tony Blair.

In the interview, Mr Barroso repeated his call on London to reach beyond its national interest in the bitter debate about the EU budget and the need to cut the UK's annual rebate, as well as showing effort to push forward an agreement.

"In Europe we cannot expect our ideas to be accepted 100 percent. We have to accept sometimes some compromise," he said, adding that Mr Blair needed to have an "approach that is inclusive. Dynamic yes. But inclusive".

"The British presidency comes at a crucial moment. It is almost a cliche to say that but this time it happens to be true," said Mr Barroso.

Meanwhile, British media report that Downing street may consider postponing its plans to introduce a reform to the EU budget to a later point in the UK's presidency, probably in October, to let more time pass since the bitter summit budget row two weeks ago.

Also, cabinet ministers believe they would have a better chance of achieving a budget deal if there is a change of government in Germany, after the expected election in September, according to the Independent.

The compromise on the bloc's spending could include a reduction of Britain's annual rebate in return for cuts in the farming policy, possibly through a wholesale review of the EU budget by 2008.

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