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"Today, colleagues, is the last occasion for me to use the privilege of addressing this House as its President. It is a moment to reflect and to look back on this mandate. Thanks to the determined leadership of our committees and their chairmen, I believe you, the Members of this House, can be proud of a solid record of legislative achievement. You have managed an important gearshift and have been an extremely hardworking Parliament throughout this mandate. Your work has demonstrated that a European Parliament given responsibility acts with responsibility. We proposed, as you know, and reached an important interinstitutional agreement for the future and better lawmaking. Legislation has been an important role but not the only one we have played. Our actions have ranged much wider. For example, in budget terms, the figures show clearly – and let this message be understood by the Council regarding the Constitutional Treaty – that this Parliament has been prudent in terms of discretionary expenditure of the Community budget, more prudent indeed than the other arm of the budget authority – the Council. We have shown yet again that the endowment of responsibility in the budget field begets parliamentary responsibility in return. Parliament has learnt from the experience of 1999 the lessons of executive accountability. The maturing role of this House and its Committee on Budgetary Control shows how we have absorbed the lessons of the previous crisis, in particular that parliamentary accountability is an indispensable requirement of executive action of the Union and not simply an add-on extra. The power of assent has been exercised responsibly as, for example, the assent given by this House to the Accession Treaty. While, at the same time, as the discussions and votes on the passenger name register have amply demonstrated, this Parliament is nobody's rubber stamp. Increasingly, we as parliamentarians have fulfilled a role as a focal point for the expression of concerns held by people on the ground. The debates, for example, on the and disasters led to real remedial legislation. In summary, our Parliament has been an efficient lawmaker, a prudent budget-maker, the European Union's platform for executive accountability and an effective tribune for the peoples of Europe. Colleagues, you may remember the headline goals that I set myself when I spoke to you after my election: our contribution to enlargement, enhancing communication with citizens and the promotion of internal reform in our House, particularly the Statute for Members. I invested myself in all three objectives and I would like now to report back to you today. I have completed a full and busy schedule as President. Inside Parliament I have had 90 meetings of the Conference of Presidents, covering 669 agenda items. I have had 54 meetings of the Bureau of the House, treating 934 agenda items. I have had 450 other meetings in this European Parliament. I have had 334 meetings with visiting personalities and politicians and 16 visits by Heads of State. I have represented you in this House at 12 meetings of the European Council. Outside Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels I have made, on your behalf, 203 visits. I have been to 33 States, including the European Union States and candidate States of tomorrow. In 24 States I had the privilege, on your behalf, to address the plenary sessions of national parliaments. I have given more than 1 000 media interviews in Brussels and Strasbourg and an equal number on my 203 visits abroad on your behalf. I have addressed this plenary over and above the normal duties of the chair on 24 occasions and I have made 130 major speeches outside this House on your behalf. Our correspondence total runs to nearly 10 000 and another 10 000 dossiers. I thank my cabinet for their patience and their work. My first priority – and the overriding public purpose of my presidency – was the enlargement that has reached its culmination this week. The work of the Vice-Presidents and the Bureau, the group leaders and the Conference of Presidents, the advance budgeting for pre-integration, all this meant that our work this week with our new Parliament of a Europe of 25 has proceeded without a hitch. I am proud of that fact. This did not happen by accident: it was part of a strategic political and administrative plan. I thank Julian Priestley and his team for the work they have put into this on such professional terms. What did we as parliamentarians bring to enlargement? We did this through the actions of our Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and our rapporteurs, through our political groups and my own visits. We brought the animation of politics. We brought the Europe of values. We brought a sense of trying to communicate the historical and exciting nature of the moment and to project that to Europe's publics. We moved the debate on from the sterility of the to the vitality of the moment, encouraging necessary compromises, reaching necessary agreement on the financial perspective. At the same time, the prospect of membership induced an extraordinary transformation in the new States themselves. In Parliament, we emphasised the parliamentary dimension. November 2002: a special staging post when we invited all the parliamentarians to be with us before the Copenhagen Summit of that year; 2003: the year of parliaments and parliamentarianism. You took the unprecedented step – the fifth enlargement but the first time ever – to invite observer MPs from every State, and that is greatly to your credit. Let me express the hope that, in this reconciling Europe, reconciliation can and will be found on the island of Cyprus and that our last divided capital can, in time, be reunited. The extent of our legislative engagement and our engagement across the European institutions, which has contributed to a climate of trust, provided legitimacy, efficiency and confidence. The sheer scale of our extraordinary – if I may call it – exit velocity in recent months, involving the adoption of over 80 reports in our last several part-sessions, bears testament to the general upscaling of Parliament's work in the course of its fifth mandate. Enlargement brought with it a recognition of the need for a new rulebook for the Union and the convening of a Convention on the future of Europe to prepare it. Against expectations, the Convention formula, proposed by this Parliament and by our Committee on Constitutional Affairs, was adopted and, against many expectations, it proved to be an unqualified success. There is still work to be done on the Constitutional Treaty. Let me reassure this House here today that in this interim period – between now and July when the House resumes for its sixth mandate – I will focus with determination, together with our representatives, Mr Hänsch and Mr Brok, and the group leaders, to ensure that the European Parliament plays the fullest role possible in the weeks that remain. Let me express this resolve: we will work with others for the successful completion of a Constitutional Treaty during the mandate of the Irish presidency. On economic reform, Parliament has done what was asked of us. There is no European parliamentary delivery gap but there is for Lisbon, unfortunately, a considerable gap, which risks becoming a credibility gap. Communications are an indispensable and growing requirement of parliamentary democracy, particularly for a continental-scale parliament such as ours. We have intensified our communications with other European institutions and national parliaments. In doing so, we have demonstrated that the European Parliament is a determined and reliable partner for European progress. The next Parliament would do well to invest yet more resources into communications, into selling our story – a story of which we can be proud. However – and this is my strongest belief – there is no public relations or information campaign substitute for real politics based on conviction, passion and reason. We parliamentarians are in direct contact with our constituents. We know their anxieties and aspirations. We must bring vision and give leadership. We are an indispensable link in an unbroken chain of democratic accountability between our constituents, regions, States and the European ideal. The difficult days and weeks of 2003, when we lived through the European Union's Iraq crisis, amounted to a setback for effective multilateralism through the United Nations and also for the European Union and transatlantic relations. We have much to reflect on and lessons need to be learnt for the future. The crisis marked a departure from our European way of doing business. It showed that institutional or constitutional provisions risk becoming merely empty vessels if they are not animated by political will and by common public purpose. This mandate has been marked by our standing for real decency in international affairs, for European values. I have great pride that we have stood for the due process of the International Criminal Court compared to its absence in Guantanamo Bay. The lesson – and I hope this will be understood by the electorate in June – is that this Parliament makes a political difference. My great pride in our reaffirmation of multilateralism, the visit of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 29 January 2004 to accept the Sakharov Prize on behalf of the UN and the colleagues, who died in Baghdad, marked a high point. It signalled in a powerful and emotional way our Parliament's commitment to the multilateral way of doing politics. We have sought to develop relations in other areas such as with Russia and the US. We have had some limited success but more needs to be done. I can report to you with great pride the achievement of establishing a Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, which was constituted last March in Athens. As you know, from the outset this Parliament played a central role in ensuring that Assembly from day one will be an effective instrument of democratic dialogue and where pluralism is visible and real. On reform, the last topic that I gave you promises on almost two and a half years ago, internally the Bureau has accomplished important work under the title of "Raising the Game" in terms of new internal structures, putting a new focus for the next mandate on assisting Members by providing legal and procedural advice on a scale and of a quality not available before. These reforms have been tangible and beneficial and I have no doubt they will bring a quality and improvement to our work, but a major disappointment of my mandate has been the failure, finally, of the Council to find a qualified majority for the adoption of a common statute for Members of the European Parliament. We made the compromises, even those suggested by the Council, and yet at the last moment a minority blocked our way. An arrangement whereby Members of the same parliament have 25 different legal and financial regimes in my view is neither desirable nor tenable in the long term. Although our efforts did not come to fruition this time it is my strong hope that the statute can finally be adopted early in the next legislature. The Parliament, as you know and as you voted, clearly needs reform. On the issue of expenses, important progress has been made by Parliament in reforming our rules and regulations to ensure greater transparency and accountability. Specific reforms of travel allowances, secretarial allowance and other allowances have been decided by the Bureau and the Quaestors in the course of recent years and have continued under my presidency. At the outset I sought a global reform based on two elements: the fair treatment of Members of the House based on equality, and transparency on allowances to be based on costs incurred. The failure by Council is not our failure. It is regrettable however – and let me make this clear yet again – that currently there is a campaign abroad using questionable and deplorable methods, the main purpose of which appears to have been to seek to discredit this institution and which seeks to call into question the honour of Members of this House. This has been done to wreak maximum damage on zero evidence against individuals, their careers, and their families. It is a disgrace. We now have an experience of more or less 50 years of European policy-making. In that time policy and very many aspects of day-to-day life in our Member States through the Union has been Europeanised. European public policy and regulation is deeply embedded in the national political decision-making environment, but for all that we have Europeanised policy we are still searching for the way to Europeanise politics itself. I have therefore tried, particularly in the last year, to deliver this message. There is such a wealth of European issues on which we have in our many parties represented here clearly differentiated points of view that we do not lack a European platform to fight a genuinely proper European election. That is my invitation to you as you leave here for that election. Stick with Europe and try to make sure it is not only about mid-term tests and national or local beauty contests, but that it is about real, genuine, shaping of the future of Europe. ) I would like to make some final remarks as regards the conduct of my presidency. What success I have had in my short time I owe to all of you. I wish to thank you all, but perhaps most especially my colleagues, the Group leaders, who have slogged in the political trenches with me on so many occasions. I realise more fully than I did at the outset that you cannot please all the people all the time. I have always sought to serve this House without fear or favour, without malice or prejudice, to serve the interests of the whole House and not any of its component parts. I very much believe that I have tried to work according to the principles of a fellow Irishman, Edmund Burke, who said to his constituents in correspondence in 1774: 'Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices his judgment to your opinion'. I stand by the judgments I made from this chair and I am prepared to be judged on them. I thank my cabinet. I thank the European Parliament and again I do not have enough words of thanks or praise for Julian Priestley, Harald Rømer, and wonderful leadership, professional leadership of a quality transnational world class public service. The key message of this mandate is that the European Parliament has shown itself to be a mature and reliable legislative partner for the Council and the Commission. We have emphasised at all times the primacy of politics. During the last 5 years, 403 codecision procedures and 86 sets of conciliation negotiations have been successfully concluded. This is 250% more than in the preceding 5 years. Only 2 proposals were not adopted and that by democratic choice: the takeover directive of 2001, the port services directive of 2003. Allow me to finish on a much more personal note. Serving as a Member of the European Parliament for 15 years, as a Vice-President and President of the ELDR Group for more than seven years, as President of this House for almost two and a half years, has been the great experience of my life. With what I can assure you were very mixed emotions, I informed my supporters in my Munster constituency this morning that I do not intend to stand in the forthcoming election. I want to thank the people of Munster for their consistent support over the years. I thank my own supporters and my family, some of whom are here today. Although no business in politics is ever finished, I have made a contribution and I know others are there to take up the challenge. Europe has been the cause of my political life. I will continue serving that cause in any way I can. I leave this House but my friendships, insights and abiding respect for what this Parliament does will never leave me. Above all, my thanks to all of you for your friendship and for your support. I have to take a deep breath! The legislative legacy of this Parliament from 1999 to 2004 is one that will improve the quality of life of our peoples and lay down the conditions for improved prosperity. The list of legislation illustrates the range and the depth of our activity in fields including the environment, transport, cultural exchange, financial services and consumer protection. We have also used our legislative powers with flexibility and skill: 28% of our codecision procedures were adopted at first reading; half of the total concluded at second reading through pre-conciliation. In plain language: we have not always pushed our parliamentary prerogative to its limits, we have used our prerogatives strategically and with a strong political sense. Throughout the mandate, we in Parliament – alone of the law-making institutions of this Union – can boast at the end of our mandate a 100% legislative record, of which, in terms of delivery, we can be truly proud."@en1
"(The House rose and accorded the President a standing ovation)"1
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