Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-024"

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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we were all, I am sure, moved and encouraged by the expressions of joy that greeted the arrival of ten new Member States in the European Union on 1 May. There is ample justification for such displays of enthusiasm. Indeed, enlargement represents the future: the future of Europe’s history, a future of peace and prosperity, solidarity and union, on a continental scale. It also represents the future of the European project, within the framework of which we must work together and the benefits of which we must constantly, on a daily basis, explain to our citizens, in order that we can earn their support. I should also like to thank Parliament on behalf of the Commission for its significant contribution in drawing up the Constitution, and, in particular, the efforts made by all of Parliament’s representatives in the Convention and its Praesidium. I should like to single out, if I may, Mr Hänsch, Mr Méndez de Vigo and Mr Duff. Similarly instrumental were Parliament’s determination, during negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), that the progress made at the Convention would not be undone, and the regular, comprehensive consultations, conducted under Mr Napolitano’s competent and constructive leadership in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. Against this backdrop, the Commission shares Parliament’s determination – and, I feel, that of the vast majority of national delegations – that the consensus that emerged from the Convention on almost every point discussed should not be jeopardised during this final period of negotiations at the IGC. To take steps backwards, in areas such as the balance between Parliament and the Council on financial and budgetary issues, would be completely unthinkable from the point of view of the principle of European democracy. Nevertheless, I should like to point out that the process of making a constitutional Europe requires effort on the part of both the new Parliament and the next Commission. In view of the ratification procedures in all current and new Member States – especially if referendums are to be held, as would appear to be the case – it is crucial that public debate on the European Constitution should take place. We must avoid falling into the trap of simply juxtaposing twenty-five national debates; what we need is a real European debate. Lastly, Mr President, although Milan Kundera wrote that the only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past, I, personally, want to master the future because I see it as a future of peace, prosperity and solidarity, founded upon a European Constitution that is able, democratically and effectively, to meet the expectations and needs of 450 million citizens. What we are doing is mastering the past in order to forge a common future. Enlargement also represents a unique opportunity, which we must take with both hands, to reform our policies and to restructure the European institutions in order to develop the appropriate instruments to enable tomorrow’s EU to focus not only on the requirements – both internal and external – of efficiency, transparency and simplicity, but also on the specific concerns of the citizens and on anything that may make a difference to their daily lives. It is worth recalling the reasons why the Laeken European Council opted to establish the Convention on the future of Europe: the growing distance between the public and the European institutions, the need to rethink the European project and the institutions in the context of enlargement and the need to take stock of Europe’s role in an increasingly globalised world. Mr President, it is worth recalling the challenges that the Laeken Council issued to the Convention: the challenge of setting out clearly the division of competence between the Union and the Member States, so as to explain more clearly to the public who does what in the European Union; the challenge of simplifying the Union’s texts, instruments and decision-making procedures; the challenge of bringing added value to the European institutions and decision-making processes, in terms of democracy, transparency and efficiency; and even, perhaps, the challenge of fulfilling the dream of adopting a European Constitution. Faced with these challenges, the Convention made a clear choice – an extremely clear choice, in fact! We chose the constitutional path. We decided to place the public at the heart of the European project, hence the complete incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the Constitutional Treaty. Today we are closer than ever before, as Mr Roche has just said, to adopting a genuine European Constitution. Our desire to see this ambitious project succeed is an accurate reflection of our evaluation of the Convention’s work. The Commission feels that the draft Constitution has met the aims of simplicity, efficiency and democracy. This is not, of course, a perfect document. A few refinements, confined to the Convention’s draft Constitution, are, in our view, desirable, provided that these do not upset the overall balance of the text. We must improve our ability to act, within the framework of decision-making that from now on encompasses the Twenty-Five, by means of a more general extension to qualified majority voting. The decision-making process must be made more transparent. We are staunch advocates of double majority in Council voting. I understand Mr Roche’s argument. Ways must be found of ensuring that everyone is part of the double majority system. Care must be taken, however, not to introduce any element into the double majority system that may cause confusion, as this would divest it of its major advantages from the public’s point of view, namely, efficiency and clarity. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater! We must also be in a position to respond to future developments that are already underway, by making the procedure of revising the Treaties more flexible, at least as regards the EU’s policies. Part III is, in fact, out of step with the modernisation of all the other elements of the Constitutional Treaty. Moreover, it is not sufficiently adaptable to the new aims of the Union as regards the Lisbon Agenda and sustainable development. What is needed is a flexible review of Part III. It is ultimately crucial that we ensure that all Member States receive equal treatment, by establishing a Commission made up of one voting Commissioner per Member State, which requires an internal Commission structure that complies with the principle of collegiality. This solution for the Commission must stand until such time as the new Member States are completely integrated. Where necessary, alternative solutions must be sought. Mr President, I must express my support for the Irish Presidency’s determination to conclude negotiations on the future Constitution, preferably before elections to Parliament or, at least, immediately after that landmark event. We – and on this I feel that I am expressing the opinion of the Commission, Parliament and the presidency – are all equally determined to see the European Constitution come to fruition during the first half of this year, thereby giving tangible form to the progress made in the Convention."@en1
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