The European Union must elect a president to drive through sweeping reforms and lead the European Union on the world stage, according to Tony Blair.
The former British Prime Minister warns that the EU risks losing out to the economic might of China, India, Brazil and other booming economies.
He argues that a popular president elected by an electorate consisting of 386 million people, in 27 countries, would send a powerful message to governments around the world.
He said that unless the bloc adopted "strong, collective leadership and direction", it would end up trailing in the wake of emerging economies.
Such a post would represent a seismic shift in the EU’s 50-year history and pave the way for sweeping economic reforms and better tax policies, he argued.
But he shrugged off public fears about more control passing into the hands of EU institutions and called for a shift in the perception of the bloc's role from one as a peacemaker to one as a world superpower.
In an interview with The Times newspaper, to mark the publication of the paperback version of his autobiography, the 58 year-old said that without such a post, the EU risked becoming less authoritative economically and in terms of its military might.
This would place it a weaker entity than countries such as China, India and Brazil, all of which are currently recording booming economies.
“The rationale for Europe today is about power, not peace,” he told the newspaper.
“For Europe, the crucial thing is to understand that the only way that you will get support for Europe today is not on the basis of a sort of post-war view that the EU is necessary for peace,” he told the newspaper.
“For my children’s generation, that is just a bizarre argument. They don’t see that as a real threat, that European nations will go to war with each other.”
He added: “But what they can understand completely is that in a world in particular in which China is going to become the dominant power of the 21st century, it is sensible for Europe to combine together, to use its collective weight in order to achieve influence. And the rationale for Europe today therefore is about power, not peace.”
He said areas where the EU should forge closer links to “make us more powerful as a unit” included tax policy, creating a single market, better energy and defence policies, and a single immigration and organised crime policy.
At present, there is the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, from Belgium, who was chosen by member governments of the EU.
He did concede, however, that a directly elected EU president has “no chance of being accepted at the present time”.
“We won’t have the weight and influence a country like Britain needs unless we’re part of that European power as well,” he said.
“Europe has got a fantastic opportunity, but only if it’s prepared to reform and change radically in the way it works.”
Telegraph Media Group Limited