May 1, 1998

Dissociating itself from a Thatcherite past, the Labour government projects a vision of the UK as a member of a moral, European-wide society with humanitarian credentials to be upheld wherever possible.

Expectations of Labour's capacity to deliver in the short term outstrip its ability to do so. But it has shown itself to be an engaged rather than aloof player on the European stage. As a result it will be expected to take initiatives to shape the future and cannot sit on the sidelines. It has been adept at trying to engage as far as possible in the single currency to facilitate a swift entry at the earliest opportunity. Businesses understand this and are preparing accordingly.

Europe in 2007

European governments will continue to operate within the institutional structures we know today - but their procedures and policymaking powers will have changed significantly. There will be a greater centralisation in the European Union, together with a devolution of power to local levels. Defining action that is best taken by states acting together will preoccupy diplomats and politicians.

A premium must be placed on consultation across regional and national borders. Greater legitimacy will attach to different players in a less hierarchical and more egalitarian system of governance.

Juliet Lodge is professor at the Centre for European Studies, University of Leeds.

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