Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-03-Speech-1-009"

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"Mr President, Madam Vice-President de Palacio, Commissioner Verheugen, Members of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to start by saying something personal. It is my privilege to have been a Member of this House ever since 1979, when it was, for the first time, directly elected. If, during the 1979 election campaign, somebody had said that, on 1 May 2004, the European Union’s Member States would include three nations occupied by the Soviet Union – those being Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Warsaw Pact states of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, part of Communist Yugoslavia, not to mention Malta and Cyprus – the latter of which will, we hope, one not too distant day be a united country – then, in 1979, when the European Parliament was directly elected for the first time, our answer would probably have been that this was a lovely vision, a wonderful dream, and a great hope, but that we feared that this dream, this vision, this hope – much though we desired it – would not become reality in our lifetime. My dear friends … perhaps my addressing you as ‘dear friends’ was a slip of the tongue, and I apologise, but we do somehow belong to one another through our shared ideal of European unity. At the impressive ceremony outdoors, Mr President, we heard not only from you, with your impressive speech, but from Lech Walesa. He embodies solidarity, and solidarity must mean for all of us a future in which we of course have to respect the national interests of individual countries, such as those of the Baltic States with their minorities, whilst not jeopardising those countries’ independence, an obligation that is reciprocal. Anything else, therefore, we have to speak out against, as Commissioner Verheugen has done, and I would like to thank him for making the important point that this Europe of ours in founded upon solidarity. That will benefit all of us. For the first time in its long millennia of history, this continent has the opportunity to face the future in peace and partnership. This is our continent, an ancient continent endlessly renewing itself, and nobody will succeed in dividing us. Side by side, we walk into the future together; this is a great day for us all! That dream has become reality. The fact that we are able, today, to welcome 162 Members of this Parliament from these 10 countries makes this a great day for democracy, and a great deal for parliamentarianism. Let us rejoice that we can welcome as colleagues our new Members today! Let us not forget that it was our House, with every political group playing its part, that insisted that we would be negotiating not merely with five countries but with 12, and that those who were not yet ready would be given the opportunity to catch up. The fact that ten countries have joined the European Union today is attributable to our demand, in this House, that the negotiations should include Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia, and they have made it. We should congratulate them all. Let us not forget that, as we know, the reports on the European Parliament in the media do not always reflect the decisions taken in it. It was our House that demanded a timetable for the negotiations – which the Commission and the Nice Summit accepted – so that they could be completed in time, enabling the countries capable of doing so, and their people, to take part in the 2004 elections to the European Parliament. It was our House that did that! That is what we should be telling people, and it is something of which we can be proud, for it helps to make democracy real in Europe and to give the people of the ten countries the opportunity to send freely-elected representatives to the European Parliament. Let us rejoice in that! Everyday life will soon catch up with us, and, necessary though great speeches are, it is not by them that Europe is maintained. Today is a wonderful day, as 1 May was, but everyday life will soon overtake us; we will discuss things, we will argue about things too, but we, the people of the European Union, must remind ourselves of what is new and represents a great opportunity; that the great thing about this European Union is that our discussions and arguments are now carried on with words, no longer by force and weaponry. That is a great step forward for our continent of Europe in the twenty-first century."@en1

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