Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-212"

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"Mr President, I wish to begin by paying tribute to Commissioner Vitorino. He said at the beginning of his contribution that it would be our last opportunity to hear him. I hope that is not true and that those Members who return to the new Parliament will again have the pleasure of working with him. I am sure colleagues will agree he has been one of the best and most accessible of all the Commissioners. He has worked closely with us in our committee on a very difficult dossier and very challenging topics. The right to access asylum must be reinforced, because we in this Parliament and the Commission are guardians of those rights: the right to asylum for those in need. The Commission is one of the guardians of those Treaties and of those rights. We can look forward to the future with some optimism. If there is anyone listening who is in a position to look for a new President of the Commission, my suggestion – for what it is worth – would be you, Commissioner Vitorino. I hope that will be taken on board. We thank you for all you have done and I thank Mr Hernández Mollar and other colleagues on the committee for everything they have done over the last few years. It is our joint challenge to enable everyone in the new wider Europe to live freely in a safer world, of which Europe is just one part. It sometimes seems that we are playing around with a jigsaw puzzle and do not even know what all the pieces are. We certainly do not know yet how they fit together. Mr Hernández Mollar spoke of the deep-rooted challenges we face. In the work of our committee on citizens' rights and freedom, the challenge must be to ensure that despite deep-rooted changes we are still able to maintain the rights of over 400 million EU citizens to freedom of movement, a decent education and a decent home. The enlarged Europe must not be an excuse for us to replace the Iron Curtain with a division between rich and poor people and rich and poor countries. Rights have to be equal wherever you live within this new Europe, whatever the colour of your skin, your ethnicity, your religion or whether you have no religion at all. Earlier this afternoon there were some bigoted contributions from the other side of the Chamber about the dominance of Christianity in Europe and how important that was. I reject that. It has no place in these debates because people's rights should not be affected by religion, gender, origin or age. We must do everything we can to protect minorities and to give them freedom from oppression. This includes the rights, for example, of the Roma people in some of the Eastern European countries. The Commissioner was right when he said that enlargement is a real challenge and it is not one that we have by any means addressed yet. We have the challenge of the external frontiers, to which he referred. In our efforts to control those frontiers and stop supplies of drugs and weapons, we must not make a barrier between our wealthier 25 countries and the poorer states just outside those new frontiers. I am sure, Mr Vitorino, you share with us the desire to make certain that there is justice in this enlarged Europe. You spoke of companies and businesses. That must continue and include freedom of the press – not closing down newspapers, as we have seen in some countries. There is a right to free television, and free media, not those dominated by a few people with vested interests. There is a lot for us to do. Commissioner, you have referred to many of the points this afternoon. I shall just mention a couple more. We must ensure that there is no oppression of those people who wish to move around, to exercise their right to free movement. You. have referred to the hysteria in some of the press about that."@en1

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