Explode the myths about Europe, says Plumb

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Series Details Vol.7, No.45, 6.12.01, p6
Publication Date 06/12/2001
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Date: 06/12/01

By Martin Banks

THE next leader of the European Parliament will play a crucial role in "exploding the myths" about Europe, according to former president Henry Plumb.

The British peer argues that one of the new president's first tasks should be to persuade eurosceptic member states to be more understanding about the European Union.

"There is an awful lot of misinformation about the EU. We are forever hearing about how Brussels is 'interfering' in people's daily lives," said Plumb, who was president from 1987-89.

"I used to find this very frustrating and annoying but the president is in a unique position to explode a lot of these myths.

"He should be an ambassador for Europe and strive to put the EU on the world map."

Lord Plumb was speaking at the Brussels launch of his new book, The Plumb Line, in which he recalls his election as president - the last time there was a serious contest for the post.

"In principle, I am in favour of a genuine, open race - but I can't recommend that as being good for one's nerves," he joked.

One of six candidates, he eventually won in 1987 by just five votes, beating Spanish Socialist Enrique BarĂ³n Crespo.

Afterwards, he famously said: "I was born an Englishman but shall die a European."

Plumb, who spent 20 years as an MEP before standing down at the last elections in 1999, now sits in the UK House of Lords and was last week appointed president of the Association of Former MEPs.

Plumb, the only British president of the parliament since elections started in 1979, said he was impressed by each of the five candidates: Pat Cox (Liberal), David Martin (Socialist), Gerard Onesta (Green), Jens-Peter Bonde (Europe of Democracies and Diversities) and Francis Wurtz (United Left).

A former president of the British National Farmers Union, Plumb described Cox and Martin, the two front runners, as "very able and sound" but said whoever wins faces a tough job, not least in reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"I have followed the election closely and am particularly glad it is an open contest as this is healthy for democracy. But the winner must ensure he doesn't become remote and must be a man of the people."

The next leader of the European Parliament will play a crucial role in 'exploding the myths' about Europe, according to former president Henry Plumb.

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