Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-025"

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"Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner Vitorino, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Hume has just spoken very movingly. Having been a Member of this House since 1979, he will be leaving Parliament, as will my Irish friend Mr McCartin. At a time like now, when we are thinking about the future, that should prompt us to briefly review the past, as we have just done in commemorating Jean Monnet and Altiero Spinelli. Looking back over the past in this way enables us to have confidence and hope that we really can be optimistic in looking forward to our continent’s future. Let us consider the previous enlargements. There was one in 1973, when the Europe of the Six was joined by Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, thus becoming a Europe of Nine; then, in 1981, came Greece; Spain and Portugal joined in 1986, with three more countries –Finland, Sweden and Austria – acceding in 1995. Finally, we now have a Community of 25. Hand in hand with this, the Community has always gained in depth, with the EEC and Euratom being created in 1957, the Single European Act in 1986, and the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, in connection with which we must recall the great achievements of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, President François Mitterrand and Commission President Jacques Delors, whose work was successfully continued by Jacques Santer. We then had Amsterdam in 1995, followed by Nice, which may well not have been that much of a success, but it was there that we adopted the resolution that we would conclude accession negotiations with the candidate countries in time for the European elections. If we were to sum up all the changes that have taken place over these years, we would have to come to the conclusion that this is a great continent, one that has always, even when faced with great difficulties, gone forward in the right direction. It is now a matter of our great good fortune that Ireland holds the Presidency – Mr Roche, their Minister for Europe and our President-in-Office of the Council, is with us today – and is conducting its affairs with a combination of vision, pragmatism and goodwill, the latter quite crucial if there is to be any progress. Let me thank you, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, for the work you have done to date. If we deserve a European Constitution, it is because of your efforts and Europe’s. I would also like to express gratitude to Commissioner Vitorino, who, jointly with his fellow-Commissioner Mr Barnier presided over the work done by our colleagues in the Convention. We in the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats would welcome it if the Irish presidency were yet to succeed in getting a reference made in the preamble to our Judaeo-Christian heritage. It is because this embodies our values that we regard it as important, but it is also important that you, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, should not agree to any curtailment of Parliament’s budgetary prerogatives. Commissioner Vitorino also made reference to that. Such a thing must not be permitted. It is one of the prerogatives of the European Parliament, and indeed of any other, to be able to determine what is done with the Budget, and we will not be able accept any curtailment of our rights in that respect. The European Constitution is a great step forward, in that it strengthens Europe as a Community. It represents progress in that it strengthens European democracy and parliamentary government. The European Constitution is a step forward in that subsidiarity is reinforced, and in that it makes reference, for the first time, to local governance. Municipalities, cities, communities, that is to say the places we call home, are given the right to manage their own affairs. The national parliaments are also given the right to appeal in the event of their rights under the subsidiarity principle being infringed. Europe is becoming more efficient, Europe is becoming more democratic, and what we want to achieve is unity for this Europe of ours in all its diversity. The Constitution is a means to that end. When considering the future, we have to answer the question as to who can yet become a member of the European Union. With whom do we want to co-exist as good neighbours? We want to co-exist as good neighbours with everyone, especially with our Arab and Muslim neighbours, so that our continent may be a continent of peace, founded upon law and with a constitution of its own. We wish the Irish Presidency every success in achieving that for us."@en1

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