IT has taken him seven months to make the official visit to the European Commission in Brussels that is traditional for all new EU leaders within a few weeks of taking office; however no one will mind greatly about the delay provided that Gordon Brown proves he means what he said on Friday - “the EU is essential to the success of Britain and a Britain fully engaged in Europe is essential to the success of the EU”. Both John Major and Tony Blair frequently spoke about Britain being “at the heart of Europe” but neither turned his words into effective action. Mr Brown used the less emotional phrase “at the centre of Europe” to describe how he sees the UK's relationship with the Commission and other member states, and the first opportunity for him to demonstrate what that might mean will be the annual EU Economic Summit next month. In Brussels on Friday he proposed four major goals for the EU: building global prosperity, creating an environmentally sustainable world, leading on stability and reconstruction around the world and leading the fight against poverty. Gordon Brown has one great advantage in establishing Britain's central role in the EU at this time. France takes over the presidency of the Council of Ministers in July and there is considerable apprehension in Brussels about what the mercurial Nicolas Sarkozy will try to do in the following six months. The dour Mr Brown might be just the man to help keep France's more extreme ideas in check.