British FM wants beefed-up EU on world stage

LONDON: The European Union needs to step up and show it can become a serious player alongside the United States, China and Russia, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Monday.

The 27-country bloc has to prioritise its relations with Washington, Beijing and Moscow, Miliband wrote in The Times newspaper, ahead of the two-day Brussels summit of EU leaders starting Thursday.

Miliband has repeatedly denied reports in recent days that he was touting his credentials for the newly-created job billed as the EU's foreign minister.

"We need Europe to prioritise relations with the great and emerging powers: the US on security, China on climate change, Russia on energy," he wrote.

"We need Europe to step up and show it can be a strategic and serious partner, worthy of the world's largest market and strongest regional alliance."

He called for the EU's borders to expand eastwards to spread democracy in former dictatorships.

"The western Balkans, Turkey and Ukraine all want to join eventually," he wrote.

"We should welcome them. To the south in the Maghreb, there is demand for closer co-operation rather than membership, and we must respond."

He added: "We need to step up European efforts to address global conflicts and crises.

"Europe has the world's second-biggest aid budget, and armed forces and police doing vital work, whether in the Gulf of Aden on piracy or Kosovo on rule of law.

"Pakistan should be top of the list for a new drive on aid, trade and engagement."

The EU needed Britain's "hard-headed pragmatism and global mindset", he added, saying Britain's role in Europe magnified the power of London's ideas and strengthened the kingdom's clout in China, Russia and the United States.