Unite or risk fragmentation, Barroso tells EU

Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:22pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - Europe must unite to tackle the euro zone debt crisis or risk fragmentation, decline and irrelevance, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Sunday.

Barroso's solidarity call, in a commentary for The Observer newspaper, seemed particularly aimed at Britain, where the euro zone debt crisis has fueled an already strong eurosceptic strain.

"As we witness fundamental changes to the economic and geopolitical order, Europe needs to advance together or risk fragmentation," Barroso said.

"The dynamic of globalisation in financial and economic terms, but also in geopolitical terms, confronts Europeans with a stark choice: live together, share a common destiny and count in the world; or face the prospect of disunity and decline. In this defining moment, we either unite or face irrelevance," he said.

Barroso said he hoped that when historians looked back on these times "they will understand that we stepped back from the brink of fragmentation. I hope they will see how the UK fully engaged with fellow member states and institutional partners to ensure the stability of the European Union."

British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly called on euro zone leaders to take urgent action to save the euro.

Britain, which has clung to its pound sterling, refuses to contribute to bailout funds for stressed euro zone countries, but at the same time fears the loss of influence that could come with being left behind in a two-speed Europe.

Cameron's attitude earned him a rebuke from an irritated French President Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU summit last month.

Cameron faced criticism at home this week from opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband who accused him of being dangerously complacent about the euro zone crisis and of choosing to lecture the euro zone from the sidelines instead of leading the search for answers.   Continued...

<p>European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso takes part in the European Parliament's Conference of Presidents of political parties in Brussels November 10, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir</p>