Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-009"

PredicateValue (sorted: default)
dcterms:Is Part Of
lpv:document identification number
lpv:spoken text
"Mr President, just over 20 years ago I had the immense privilege of working closely with Altiero Spinelli when he was the general rapporteur on the draft Treaty that we are commemorating today and I was a young, enthusiastic member of Parliament's secretariat. It was in many ways for me a dream come true: I was fresh from coordinating the 'yes' campaign in Britain in the referendum on our membership of the European Community in 1975. I had been the coordinator of the 'yes' campaign at Oxford University. I had then led a group of students to Rome to demonstrate outside a European Council meeting in favour of having – novel idea – direct elections to this European Parliament – one of Spinelli's main campaign themes at that time. So to then work with Spinelli was an immense honour and privilege. I found I was working with a remarkable man, who 40 years before the draft Treaty was already making history when, as a political prisoner of Mussolini – which he was for 17 years – he co-authored the Ventotene Manifesto, which already in 1941 said that: 'If our struggle against fascism is successful and if we win this war, then it will all have been in vain if it simply leads to the re-establishment of the old system of totally sovereign nation states in shifting alliances. The main challenge after the war must be to bind the countries of Europe together in a structure that develops their common interests and makes war impossible.' That text circulated throughout the anti-fascist resistance movements during the last years of the war and was one of the main motivations, the main ideals, that helped spread the European message at that time, well ahead of the European movements convention in The Hague. Forty years later Spinelli was here helping Parliament to produce its draft Treaty on European Union. He was a man with great ambition, but who knew when to compromise. He was a man with daring methods but willing to build consensus. He also realised that to succeed his project should not be seen just as his own personal project: he was willing to share the credit – the ownership – of the draft Treaty that this Parliament produced. He himself never referred to it as the Spinelli draft Treaty. He ensured that there were six co-rapporteurs from all the different groups appointed to work with him. He knew that this project was a project of Parliament. He described himself not as the author but as the midwife who had allowed Parliament to deliver this baby which needed then to be nurtured. The baby was important. Initially, it only helped produce the Single European Act. Many people were not impressed. However, if we now look back with a certain sense of perspective, we can see that cumulatively it started a process leading to four successive IGCs, the Single Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice and now the Constitution coming up. Incrementally it has transformed the European Community of 1984 into the quite different European Union that we have today, a Union with a wider scope of responsibility, with at least partially more effective institutions and with greater democratic accountability. Step by step, Spinelli's achievement can now be seen in perspective. However, the lesson for us within Parliament is that Spinelli's method was one of trying to build up consensus. He said: 'This Parliament brings together representatives of all of Europe's main political parties. We must use that to thrash out a consensus here and the message can then be taken back home to convince our parties and our governments in our countries and create a political momentum that will be irresistible.' He was successful in building up a consensus. This was a time, let us not forget, of great euroscepticism – the buzzword in those days was eurosclerosis – and when governments were telling us not to change the Treaties as it would only lead to a step backwards. The President of the Council, Leo Tindemans, and the President of the Commission, Gaston Thorn, came to the Committee on Institutional Affairs, as it was then, to ask us not to do it. Yet Parliament persevered and built up this consensus which reopened the Treaties – a taboo subject for many years. Nobody wanted to change the Treaties: the Tindemans report avoided proposing Treaty changes and the Three Wise Men report in 1979 advised against changing the Treaties. Parliament had the courage to say that the Treaties must be reopened and our basic constitutional texts must be re-examined. Spinelli patiently built up a compromise that was supported in the end by 88% of Parliament when it was adopted. Every single political group at that time had a majority supporting it. Even 79% of the British Conservatives supported the Spinelli draft Treaty – they then sat in a different political group. Now they have joined the EPP-ED Group. I cannot say they have become more European – perhaps Mr Poettering should work on them a little more. That is one group that seems to have gone backwards. Nonetheless, at that time Spinelli was able to build up a remarkable consensus, and it worked. By thrashing out a project here in this House – which represents the full spectrum of public opinion in Europe – a compromise acceptable to such a wide majority, we were able to set in motion a process which has taken us to where we are today and where the draft Constitution will be the crowning glory of Spinelli's efforts. We must ensure that Constitution is adopted."@en1

Named graphs describing this resource:


The resource appears as object in 2 triples

Context graph