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". Mr Cox, ladies and gentlemen, today is a solemn occasion for me because it is my last chance to address you, as in just over a month the European electorate will be renewing this Parliament’s democratic mandate. The second pillar of the proposal is to give real substance to the concept of European citizenship. Up to now the Union has focused especially on creating an economic area in which freedom of movement and common rules apply. In future, our united Europe must become an area of security, justice and civil liberties. As for the third pillar, Europe in the world, we propose that Europe should take its model for managing relations between countries out into the world. In that way we will be giving a practical response to the deteriorating international situation, which we observe with extreme concern. To the countries around us we are proposing our neighbourhood policy, which seeks to extend to the whole continent of Europe the model of peace, democracy and prosperity that is the hallmark of the Union. We will have to put some hard work into this great neighbourhood policy over the next five years. In general terms, then, this is the political project we are working on. In the next three months we have to prepare the implementing measures and the financial plan so that the new Commission can discharge its duties according to the timetable that has been laid down. Ladies and gentlemen, these five years have seen great developments, and I want to highlight a few events that I feel have been particularly significant. The first is the euro. After years of remarkable but intangible achievements, Europe now has in its common currency an exceptional instrument for political and economic unity, and I mean both political and economic unity. The practical and symbolic significance of all this is even greater than we might have anticipated. The second great event was the arrival on the world economic scene of the Asian giants, starting with China. All this is producing a whole new global balance in production and trade which we cannot ignore. It is a new reality that we have to come to terms with, and we can only cope with it if we remain united in defending our interests and our values. The third event is the Convention. Although we are still awaiting the Constitution, there is no doubt that the Convention was something completely new in the way politics is done in Europe. The debate on the future of Europe involved all the main players; it took place in the full light of day; and it produced a coherent text on which the Intergovernmental Conference has been able to work effectively. I believe these great steps forward in the democratic life of the Union prepared the way for the fourth event that I want to recall, which is the emergence of a truly European public opinion. I am referring in particular to the events surrounding the conflict in Iraq since late 2002. For the first time in our history we saw a wave of opinion attracting large majorities in every country in the Union. The people of Europe demanded that, when all avenues for negotiation had been exhausted, any military intervention in defence of our security should be based on international legitimacy of the kind that the European Union embodies and champions. These five years have thus seen changes that are quite out of the ordinary: the pace of our history has stepped up considerably. I see a very simple consequence in all this: in the past Euroscepticism was perhaps a luxury the Union could tolerate; today, with these changes, Euroscepticism can only bring us certain defeat. Ladies and gentlemen, these years spent serving the European cause have wrought profound changes in me too. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in the months and years to come I shall continue to fight for a decisive, passionate idea of Europe. The time of lukewarm beliefs and half-hearted commitments is over; the time of ambivalence is over. Europe needs determination, vision and courage, and I shall be throwing all the enthusiasm and strength I can muster into the fight. These have been five years of close and constructive collaboration between the Commission and Parliament. At times we have had our disagreements; at times our proposals have kindled heated debate in this House. This debate, however, has always been frank, open and constructive. I should therefore like to offer you my heartfelt thanks for the collaboration, the stimulus and also the criticism that I have been given. Ladies and gentlemen, today, as one chapter closes, a new chapter is opening in the story of European integration: a great new chapter. We have been waiting for these days for a long time, but at last enlargement is a fact. For me, 1 May 2004 will remain the best day I have ever spent in the Commission. Indeed, enlargement is leading all the institutions into the future, and the Commission is now entering a different phase, a transitional period that will end on 1 November. Over the last few weeks you have met the Commissioners one by one during the exchanges of views you have had with them. Today I can introduce them as a body, the first Commission of the new Europe. In this interim period we are organising the transition between the current Commission and the new 25-member Commission, which will take office in November. That is why we have taken the unprecedented step of teaming up our new Commissioners with ten Commissioners already in office without allocating portfolios, which would have adversely affected the work of the College in these last few months of its life. These Commissioners will, however, take part fully in College decisions, and their votes will have the same weight as those of all the other Commissioners. They are going to have – indeed they already have – a greater responsibility, because they are even more visibly the face of the European Union, to their fellow countrymen and women: theirs is a crucial role at a time when our new fellow citizens are becoming familiar with the Union and its workings. While in a formal sense my Commission is coming towards the end of its natural life, from a practical point of view we have a full agenda in front of us. In the next few months we must achieve the strategic objectives set out in the work programme that we drew up with you and which we promised you we would observe. We have decided not to undertake any new initiatives in this transitional period but to concentrate on completing the major commitments before us. I should like here to outline the main issues of these major commitments that we have already worked out with you. First, although it does not depend directly on us, is the long-awaited decision on the European Constitution. I am confident it will be adopted; this will send out a strong message for the future of the Union and will put the machinery in place for the Union to work effectively. The conditions are right for the forthcoming European Council in June to get things moving again and to bring the Intergovernmental Conference to a conclusion. The Commission will collaborate with the Presidency in every possible way in order to achieve an agreement on the Constitution. The second major objective is to ensure the success of enlargement. Now that these Member States have joined, we have to give due consideration to the aspirations of the other candidate countries, and so over the next few months we must carry forward the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, which are going well. We have already recommended starting negotiations with Croatia, and the Council is to make a decision on Turkey at the end of the year on the basis of a recommendation that the Commission has been called on to adopt in the autumn. Lastly, we must push ahead with the work of preparing the new financial perspective for the period after 2006. As you know, we have gone beyond thinking simply in accounting terms and have given the exercise a political basis, because we have to organise the political project of an enlarged Europe in line with the resources needed to carry it through. The political project we propose is supported on three pillars: sustainable development, European citizenship and Europe’s role in the world. With regard to the first pillar, sustainable development, there has been mounting concern for some time now about the health of the European economy. Our analysis of the situation is well-known, and has been supported by you all. The backbone of our action is the Lisbon/Gothenburg strategy, which marks out our path for development and growth until the end of the decade. Our project seeks to give fresh impetus to the European development model by focusing on competitiveness, employment, and solidarity between regions and across generations. Once again I must express my disappointment at the slowness of the decisions made so far: the Commission and Parliament must continue to urge the Member States to move down the path that they themselves marked out but have not followed."@en1

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