Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-173"

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"Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, fellow Europeans, a little more than 20 years ago, the European Parliament passed a declaration that condemned the occupation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union and demanded our freedom. Today, we are at last all together in this room as free nations and free European citizens, to decide jointly the future of our continent. I am deeply moved that, in this historic session of the European Parliament, the first plenary session since enlargement, I have the opportunity to speak to you in my mother tongue. Enforced divisions are thus at an end; Europe is one again. Presumably it is this historical perspective that enables new Member States to see the European Union, not just as a common market, but as something more: a common home based on common values and perceptions. Today there is no longer an old Europe and a new Europe; just one Europe – our common home. It is for this reason that here and today we must ask, not, ‘What can Europe do for us?’ but, ‘What can we do for Europe?’ This is even more important in the light of the fact that Europe’s economic and social situation cannot be considered to be rosy. We must face up to facts. Europe’s development has slowed significantly during the last decade. Although the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy are in every way correct, we have to admit that, following its adoption, the gap in competitiveness between Europe and the United States has widened rather than narrowed. With this in mind, some have mockingly alluded to the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s promise to overtake America in ten years, which ended in his country falling even further behind. I do not want the same fate to befall the Lisbon Strategy. To ensure this, the new European Commission, together with the Parliament, must act decisively to find the means to force the governments of the Member States that have reacted coolly to the reforms to implement them. I very much hope that the European Union’s enlargement will also add impetus to this process. Yes, the GDP of the new Member States is lower than that of the older ones. Nevertheless, contrary to the view of the earlier speaker, I do not believe that we have joined the European Union in order to live comfortably for the next century from the support coming from wealthier Member States. Such an attitude would be immoral and ruinous for both Europe and ourselves. Estonia cannot look only to financial gain in Europe. Our aim must be clear: to achieve as rapidly as possible – in the case of my homeland, Estonia, I believe that time to be at least 15 years – a standard of living such that we no longer need assistance from wealthier European countries. In order to achieve that goal, we have to maintain our high growth rate and liberal economy and not take the route of tax harmonisation, which would be disastrous for Europe. I also hope that the accusations levelled at new Member States will not be repeated, since only by growing rapidly and by developing tax competition throughout Europe can we make the whole of Europe more competitive."@en1

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