Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-114"

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"Mr President, Commissioner Nielson, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, the Group of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party in this House has perhaps done most to promote enlargement. We have put the pressure on and committed ourselves to a date. We have worked closely with the candidate countries, our sister parties and others. We have invited them to Parliament during the part-sessions. We have been active in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, and we were the only political group to vote unanimously in favour of every country in the vote on membership here in the House. We have, of course, been incredibly happy over the last few days, when what we have fought for has at last become a reality. At last, we have unified the European continent which, for so long, has been divided by war, misery, enmity and walls. Now, it is no longer a case of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Now, we are all ‘us’: 25 countries and 450 million citizens who have come together to solve common problems, defend common values and build a common future. That is not, however, the end. The EU will continue to grow. We look forward to welcoming Bulgaria and Romania in a few years’ time. We look forward to the start of the negotiations with Croatia, and the ELDR Group also supports the Turkish candidacy. Major reforms and changes have taken place in Turkey during Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership. The country has been modernised and democratised. Certainly, there remains a great deal to be done. The role of the military in politics is unacceptable; there are political prisoners; the Kurds are still treated in an abusive and discriminatory way; and the court case against Leyla Zana leaves a very great deal to be desired. We grant no exemptions, for criteria exist, but Turkey will in time have an obvious place. A democratic Turkey would make an important contribution and be a link between Europe and the Muslim world. The ELDR Group can never accept the argument that the EU is exclusively a Christian union. The EU will be undergoing enlargement for many years. The day that Serbs and Albanians sit in Parliament together with ourselves, or with yourselves in the Council, and, side by side, debate, for example, emission rights, then the European project will clearly have become a peace project again. The ELDR Group believes that we should not now be setting any limit on how large the EU is to become. We proceed on the principle that all countries situated wholly or partly in Europe are welcome as long as they fulfil the criteria. The world is, however, larger than the EU, even an enlarged EU. The great task in the next term of office will therefore be to implement, and give practical shape to, the neighbourhood strategy and formulate how, in practical terms, we are to increase cooperation with our eastern and southern neighbours, using the Mediterranean process, and with those countries that may one day be able to become Members and with those that do not perhaps want to become Members. We must find both common and bilateral solutions. The people of Moldavia, Albania, Georgia and Ukraine, together with the oppressed people of Belarus all have high hopes of the EU. They want us to be able to give them an answer concerning a better future. We must therefore formulate strategies as to how we are to cooperate with these countries. This will be a priority task. Mr President, you can be sure that the ELDR Group will put its weight behind this work. Finally, I wish, on my own behalf but also on behalf of the ELDR Group, to say a big thank you to Mr Brok for the work he has done in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy. He is not in the House, but I wish my thanks to be minuted. The work that has been done in the committee and the fact that we are standing where we are today owe a very great deal to him."@en1

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