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Europe emerging from "darkened room" - PM

Europe emerging from "darkened room" - PM

2 February 2006

Prime Minister Tony BlairThere has never been a better time to be optimistic about Europe and enthusiastic about Britain's place in it, Tony Blair has said.

After a difficult year for the EU in 2005, a consensus is now forming among a "new generation" of leaders who share the vision of an open Europe.

And instead of walking away from its continental partners, the PM added, the UK should be an enthusiastic participant in the coming developments.

* Read the transcript of PM's speech

In his first major speech on Europe since handing over the EU's six-month rotating presidency on January 1, Mr Blair said the Union has emerged from a "darkened room" to a brighter future.

Last year saw tough negotiations over the EU budget, and the rejection of a proposed constitution by France and the Netherlands.

But the future should see economic reform, security, energy and defence at the top of the agenda, the PM said.

* Read more about the EU Presidency

Mr Blair went on:

"The irony is that, after the shock of enlargement, the crisis of the referendums, the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey and the agreement of the budget with a firm process of reform midway through the next financial term, 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.

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

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

ENDS

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