Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2000-10-03-Speech-2-012"
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". Mr President, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the Biarritz Summit will be decisive for we will have to tackle issues of fundamental importance to enlargement and the institutional reforms. However, while we are attempting to resolve our own problems we must spare a thought for our friends and neighbours who are facing decisive challenges. In Serbia, thanks to the determination of the Serbian people, democracy is on the point of asserting itself. Therefore, let us support Serbia in its endeavour to, at last, turn the page and to take its place in the international community once again. The Middle East, on the other hand, seems to be moving ever further away from peace due to irresponsible actions which reopen old wounds and which we condemn. We need to simplify the mechanism for closer cooperation, leaving the door constantly open to those Member States that wish to participate. The consistency of the and the uniformity of the judicial framework must be preserved. Closer cooperation must be an inclusive, not exclusive instrument, but no-one must be allowed to prevent a group of States from achieving that close union which is expressly provided for in the Treaties and which must be properly regulated within the framework of the Union's institutions. We need to cushion the institutions against the impact of enlarging the Union, to ensure that we have a Commission which is able to continue to operate as a genuine College, and a Council which is able to adopt decisions by a vote which represents the will both of the majority of the States and the majority of their combined populations. We need to reform the legal structure of the Union and, lastly – and this, in my opinion, is crucial if Nice is to be a success – to limit the scope for using the veto and restrict the decisions requiring unanimity to the absolute minimum. These reforms are the minimum changes necessary – and I repeat, the very minimum necessary – before enlargement takes place, to ensure that enlargement does not irreversibly impair the Union's ability to act. Equally important for the future of Europe – at Biarritz and later at Nice – will be the debate on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. According to Mr Moscovici, this represents a great political step forward. The Charter will, in fact, become the reference point both for those countries which are already Members of the Union and those which are preparing for accession. The quality of the proposed draft and the balance it achieves are truly exemplary and I would therefore like to congratulate the Members of the Convention and President Herzog on their work. Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the lesson for us all today, the tenth anniversary of German unification, is that Europe is capable of rising to the great challenges that history throws in its path. Looking immediately ahead, beyond Biarritz and Nice, we have a duty to consider our future. My aim today is not to present a complete blueprint for tomorrow's Europe. I simply want to set down some markers for the debate. The future of a newly reunited Europe is not carved in stone. The outcome of the current political debate will depend upon our determination: either we maintain the status quo, which would, in effect, mean a step backwards for Europe, or we allow a partial but deceptive increase in intergovernmental cooperation, or, alternatively, we continue to build on the institutional architecture of the Union in a way that is consistent with the principles of democracy, the balance of powers and subsidiarity. I am heartened by the fact that there now seems to be more of a consensus on the need to address these issues than there was when I first raised them in this very Chamber this time last year. If we are to make constructive plans for the future, we will have to take as our starting point our current situation, our past history and the recent debate inspired by many authoritative contributions. The Commission will work alongside Parliament and the Council to ensure that the European Union produces political action which will enable us to remain protagonists in humanitarian and financial matters. All the lasting achievements of the Union, from the single market to the euro including four successive enlargements, have been the product of our completely unique system, based on the fine balance between the Union's institutions. Revolving around the institutional triangle of Council, Parliament and Commission, this system has proved remarkably successful. Its originality lies without doubt in the Commission and its right of initiative. The Commission is the melting pot into which the various national interests and tensions are poured, and from which emerge proposals that seek to reconcile these often conflicting interests. In this way, it provides not only an analysis and synthesis of the issues under consideration but also a starting point for negotiations in which, once national differences have been expressed, the common European interest can be identified. This executive body, which combines independence with a sensitivity to the balance of powers and interests of all the Member States, both large and small, is crucial for the pooling of sovereignty in the Community. However, the role of the Commission is necessary for the integration of Europe but is not sufficient on its own. The value of Europe derives from an institutional system in which Parliament, Council and the Court of Justice play a role which is equally decisive. It is from this system, the combination of all these institutions, that the synthesis emerges. There are, however, those who would regard any confrontation between the Council and the Commission as positive, as if this might somehow be to Parliament's advantage. Nothing could be further from the truth: a strong Council strengthens the action of the Commission, and this is equally true with regard to Parliament. The European system is a system of balances in which the smooth running of each institution serves the common interest. Any weakening of one of these institutions weakens the whole. Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, I do detect a worrying tendency to think that further European integration can be achieved through the use of methods which are based primarily on direct cooperation between governments. We have embarked on an enlargement process with the inspiring goal of restoring unity to Europe. The Commission intends to pursue this goal right through to its conclusion in full adherence to its mandate, conducting the negotiations objectively and rigorously, country by country. This is extremely disturbing because adopting the intergovernmental model can only have two possible outcomes, both of them undesirable: either it will turn the Community into a mere international debating forum which is incapable of producing genuine pooling of sovereignty around the common interest, or – what it worse – it will deceive the citizens by constantly creating new bodies which are exempt from any democratic scrutiny. Then we will have a real government of bureaucrats! Giving new powers to a committee of ministers served by an unaccountable secretariat would not represent any sort of progress either for democracy or for effective decision-making. To claim, as some do, that the individual legitimacy of the participating governments somehow constitutes, on its own, sufficient guarantee of democratic accountability for the intergovernmental model, is misguided. The European process can only derive its democratic validity from a dual legitimation: the direct legitimation of the European people, as represented by you, the Members of the European Parliament, and the legitimation of the Member States which, in turn, is based on national democratic elections. It is you, the European Parliament, as the direct expression of Europe-wide universal suffrage, who are the institution specifically dedicated to representing the union of the peoples of Europe. And it is from your endorsement that the Commission derives its democratic legitimacy. This then complements the other source of legitimacy, namely the Member States represented in the Council. Enhancing the intergovernmental model at the expense not only of the Commission, but also, ultimately, of the Council, would therefore undermine the democratic nature of the whole European structure and represent a considerable step backwards. We will run serious risks if we call into question the principle of a Community based on the rule of law, respect for which is guaranteed by the Court of Justice, to which any European citizen has the right to appeal. We must put an end, once and for all, to the current paradoxical situation in which even the deliberations of the fifteen Justice Ministers on such sensitive areas as criminal law and police cooperation escape the scrutiny of Parliament and the Court of Justice. Rigour and objectivity are essential if we are to secure the public support which is vital both in the candidate countries and in those countries which are already Members of the Union. The time has therefore come for some extra impetus over and above the efforts of the negotiators: we need to explain and persuade. There is an urgent need in the Member States of the Union for a debate which will allow the citizens to grasp the full significance of the remarkable episode of history which is unfolding with the rebuilding of a united Europe and, at the same time, to become fully aware of the potential benefits to be gained from creating a market of 500 million consumers. In the recent controversy surrounding the events in Austria, the compulsion to resist any racist or authoritarian tendencies – a reaction with which I fully sympathise – ended up creating an artificial distinction between the bilateral action of the Member States and the action of the Union as a whole. Democracy was therefore made to look as if it were reserved for the individual States alone. However, I firmly believe that democracy cannot be a matter for subsidiarity: it must thrive at all levels. Furthermore, I cannot help thinking that, when a serious problem arises at Union level, it should first be debated before this House, which is the centre and expression of our democracy. It is, moreover, indisputably right that, when it comes to tangible government, there should be a debate on what should and should not be done at European and national levels. Clearly, it is then up to each individual States to decide what needs to be done at regional and at local levels. I therefore agree that the time has come to open the debate on the distribution of powers between the Union and the Member States. The Commission will launch this debate with a White Paper on forms of government, which we are already preparing. We will be trying to define a form of interaction between the existing levels of decision-making that is transparent and democratic and, at the same time, capable of ensuring cohesive and effective action. Any trend towards an intergovernmental approach, by contrast, would create conflicting power structures within the European structure, resulting in fragmentation where what is needed is unity. There is no need for me to remind this House of our tragic inability to act in the Balkan war, precisely because of the fragmentation of our decision-making processes. It is not because of our actions that we have lost credibility but because of our inability to act. I would like to give two further examples of this fragmentation: firstly, the creation of the High Representatives. In the area of foreign and security policy, the Treaty of Amsterdam only provided a temporary response to a lasting need. While I can assure Javier Solana of the wholehearted support of the Commission – and I admire the extraordinary personal commitment which has enabled him to achieve major, unhoped-for results – I have to stress that the present organisational model is not sustainable in the long term. This model confuses the roles of the Council and the Commission in a way that could jeopardise both struts of the institutional system and exclude Parliament from any effective power. For their part, the new democracies are currently making huge, unprecedented efforts across the board to adapt their political and economic systems to Community requirements. However, there are equally clear signs in the candidate countries of growing concern over the lack of a clear, binding timetable for accession. We must respond to their efforts and their concerns. The current situation should be seen as a transitional phase, useful for launching European action in a new area but destined to be reabsorbed into the conventional institutional structure, as happened in similar cases such as Schengen. That is why I firmly believe that the function of High Representative should be integrated into the Commission, with a special status tailored to security and defence needs. We should draw the same conclusions when considering the solutions to be adopted for other sectors, such as economic policy and the euro. The current management of economic policy projects an image of Europe as indecisive and muddled. The Central Bank is independent, but, unlike every other protagonist on the world economic stage, it is not flanked by a stable economic policy body representing an overall view of the economic strategies of the Union and its Members and capable of taking decisions with the necessary speed. The search for such an essential point of reference for any monetary policy must not lead to the creation of another High Representative, this time for economic policy. The simple, natural, effective solution is there, under our noses: the Commission, acting on a mandate from the Council, should be the voice of the Union's economic policy. In fact, you only have to read the Treaty to realise that, while the Central Bank is the lynchpin of monetary policy, the body responsible for the overall assessment of the European Union's economic policy can only be the Commission. Thus, the Commission has to be the interlocutor for the Central Bank. My second example of the risk of fragmentation is the desire expressed by some Member States in the Intergovernmental Conference to amend the Treaty to facilitate the creation of agencies upon which the Commission can then confer executive powers. Let us be clear on this point: there is a real danger that this will result in conflicting centres of power. Agencies may indeed be needed to give the Union bodies and authorities of the kind that exist in all systems today, and to allow the Commission to perform its role as an executive body more effectively, without excessive bureaucratic burdens. But this must be done by maintaining the logic of the Community system. Those agencies must therefore operate under the authority of the Commission, which is answerable to you for its actions. We cannot, on the one hand, deplore the lack of effective and united European action and, on the other, be content with the weakness of the instruments available to the Community for carrying out such action. The recent petrol crisis is, from this point of view, a perfect illustration: the need for a unified response was clear – as was our inability to deliver one. In the history of European integration, the President of the Commission has often stood before this House and said that we find ourselves at a crossroads. If I say it once again, it is because I genuinely believe that it has never been more true. Before enlargement can go ahead, we must make the necessary reforms to the Community institutions. The debate about the future of Europe in the perspective of enlargement is a healthy and vital one. This was true of the recent referendum in Denmark, although I regret the outcome. However, it goes to show, once again, that not everyone in the Union feels equally strongly that they are a part of the European project. We have achieved a great deal over the past 50 years, but we must not be so complacent as to believe that these achievements are irreversible. If we are not careful to preserve the key elements of the constitutional architecture designed and executed by the founding fathers, we will reverse some of the achievements that we take for granted today such as democratic accountability, legitimacy and the rule of law. We have built a unique system in which the guarantees of the democratic state governed by the rule of law on which our societies are founded also form the basis for the Community. They must continue to guide any further advances in common action at European level. Many people in the world look, full of hope, to our European model and its successes for inspiration. Many look to our original 'union of minorities', as I like to call our Union, as the only instrument capable of reconciling the demands of globalisation with the reassertion of the rights of the citizen. I am not so naïve as to believe that the Community system is perfect. This is precisely why we have set in motion, and will carry through, an in-depth reform of the Commission. A reform not only of the way it operates but also of its administrative procedures. It is now legitimate to expect a similar effort from all the other institutions. However, I still passionately believe that the Community system, with its checks and balances, offers the best possible guarantee for the future of the fundamental values we cherish. Ladies and gentlemen, if we attempt to develop the Union while weakening the political role of the Commission, if our capacity for executive action is eroded, if the extension of the intergovernmental model corrupts the judicial and institutional mechanisms of the Community, if the democratic legitimacy of the system, guaranteed by this House, is undermined, if all this is allowed to happen, then the achievements of the single market, the common policies, the solidarity mechanisms, and the weight Europe carries by speaking with a single voice in international negotiations, will certainly be at risk, and, similarly, any attempt to equip Europe to act more effectively by continuing to develop a Union based on shared values, democratic principles and the rule of law will be in vain. Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Community system has been an unprecedented success, and we have only just begun to explore its potential. Our peoples pin their hopes on the European Union and look to it to ensure that the future is one of peace. The achievements of the past equip us well to meet the challenges of the future. What we need now is wisdom and foresight to preserve what we have inherited so that we can bequeath something even better and greater to future generations. Without the requisite institutional changes, the prospect of almost doubling the number of Member States would pose insurmountable problems in terms of decision-making capacity. Failure to introduce these changes would throw the Union into an interminable crisis. This is the task facing the Biarritz and Nice Summits. If a Treaty of Nice implementing all the above projects were to be adopted in December, allowing due time for national ratification procedures, the Union could be ready for enlargement at the beginning of 2003. There is no secret about what is at stake – you have heard Mr Moscovici – and the Commission's position is clear."@en1
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