Blair calls on fellow leaders to widen the appeal of Europe

17 Jun 99
Labour is urging European leaders to launch a modernisation offensive that parallels its own crusade in Britain.

18 June 1999

After its own disastrous results, and the general low turnouts in elections to the European Parliament last week, the Blair government is concerned to avoid what it sees as the threat to democracy posed by voter disaffection.

In an address due to be delivered by local government minister Hilary Armstrong to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in Strasbourg on June 17, Labour warned that Europe must act to help create a more 'open, responsive and accountable government'.

Modernisation was not about dogma and opinion polls but about meeting the needs of people, Armstrong was set to tell the congress as Public Finance went to press.

There was a danger that political institutions could become separated from the people they represent and Europe's leaders need to re-connect its political institutions with the people, the minister was due to say.

'To do that we must bring a new legitimacy and more accountability to the way Europe's political institutions work. Democracy will thrive in a modern Europe only if it is built on legitimacy born of trust, understanding and consent.'

Emphasising Labour's own modernisation agenda across Britain, Armstrong was intent on reiterating the Labour vision of modern councils working in partnership with businesses, public agencies and community groups to tackle local problems.

Labour wants European leaders to act now to make it easier for people to vote and have a say in how their councils are run. To be effective community leaders, councils need to stimulate the interest, support, confidence and trust of local people and foster their involvement, Labour says.


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