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Embrace Europe: Blair to Britain

Blair would explain how the bloc was closer to agreeing on reforms in areas such as jobs, security, energy and migration.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 19:59 IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will try on Thursday to build domestic support for closer ties with the European Union after the bloc was shaken by a series of rows over its budget and expansion.

Blair, who was attacked at home for giving up part of London's annual EU rebate late last year, will say there has never been a better time for Britons to embrace Europe.

In a keynote speech, he will argue that Europe has recovered from a turbulent year which saw bitter divisions over the bloc's spending plans, enlargement and proposed constitution.

"After all these alarms and excursions there has never been a better time to be optimistic in Europe or enthusiastic about Britain's part in it," Blair will say, according to extracts of his speech released in advance by his office.

"Europe has emerged from its darkened room, it has a new generation of leaders, a new consensus is forming."

Blair will say that the 25-nation bloc is closer to agreeing reforms in areas such as jobs, security, energy and migration.

"Yes, there is still a debate to be had, but the argument in favour of an open Europe is winning," he will say.

Britain gave up part of its cherished EU rebate to help boost aid to poor new, east European members, after tortuous negotiations last December.

The deal restored some confidence in the European Union after a year of setbacks marked by the rejection of the bloc's first constitution by French and Dutch voters.

However, Blair was attacked at home by newspapers and opponents who accused him of sacrificing billions in taxpayers' money.

Blair, who won a third straight election last May, has been seeking to reassert his authority in key policy areas after suffering defeats in parliamentary votes in recent months.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 19:59 IST