Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-220"

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"Mr President, I should like to correct you. I believe that the Minutes will show that my colleague Mr Pirker has given up his two minutes so that I have four minutes. Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the eastern enlargement of our European Union on 1 May, to what are now 25 countries did not happen overnight, but was a ten-year-long process, which demanded an enormous amount both of the old European Union as well as of the new Member States. In the area of justice and home affairs, many citizens of the old EU Member States were afraid of a higher crime rate after enlargement. Here, however, the accession negotiations, as well as an enormous amount of cooperation on the part of the new Member States themselves, have enabled us to achieve a great deal. Who would have thought, ten years ago, that one day German and Polish border guards would together control their borders in joint teams? The new Member States were also very successful in the area of combating national crime, and so the old Member States often had to abandon their prejudices. Faced with more and more further threats, specifically from international terrorism, we must, in the future, act even more as Europeans. After the attacks of 11 September in New York, we saw what was, unfortunately, a one-off advance in our common justice and home affairs policy, with a great deal decided on in record time: the European Arrest Warrant, a single definition of terrorism, which included a framework for penalties and the freezing of all funds for terrorist purposes. Unfortunately, after just a year, interest was already waning and we in this House did not even manage to strengthen the Europol structure for combating terrorism. Once again, nations went it alone, and national plotting came to the fore; only after the tragic Madrid bombings did the issue once again appear at the top of our agenda. In the Council, the position of Terrorism Coordinator was quickly created, unfortunately without any real powers. The measures that we adopted after 11 September 2001 – that is, almost two and a half years ago – have still not been implemented in the Member States. The upshot is that Parliament and the European Union have done our homework but the Member States have not and so the next important questions are already on the agenda for a now enlarged Union. Our visa policy must be harmonised and must include the creation of a visa information system. Border protection standards must be unified and controlled by a European border protection agency and the second generation Schengen Information System must finally be completed. Europol must be even more closely involved in the national fight against crime and be given more manpower, and we urgently need the European Public Prosecutor, in order to effectively combat the defrauding of the European Union. Within this framework, the new Member States must take even more decisive action against corruption than has been the case to date. Cooperation with third countries must also be stepped up since terrorism must be combated, not just in Europe, but also across the world. We have, in this legislative period, achieved a number of things for the safety of European citizens. A great deal fell through, though, as a result of the need for unanimity in the Council and because of national egoisms. This is why there is hardly a content area for which the entry into force of the Constitutional Treaty is so important as that of justice and home affairs policy. The EU of 25 Member States will in future only be in a position to effectively combat terrorism and organised crime if we implement simpler and more transparent procedures. The Council in particular must change over to majority voting. In addition, whilst this Treaty is in place, the budget should be significantly increased, since not just agriculture and economic structures, but also safety, cost money. To this end, I hope for constructive and specially focused cooperation in the newly elected Parliament. You deserve our thanks, Commissioner Vitorino. We did not always agree on asylum issues, but we always gave you great support where justice and home affairs policy was concerned and I hope it was this that brought forth applause from the Left, since that shows that in the future we will be in a position to act together and be stronger than we were before."@en1

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