Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-07-21-Speech-3-009"

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"Mr President, Taoiseach and outgoing President of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, let me start by very warmly thanking the Irish presidency on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats. It has been conducted very purposefully, very efficiently and very sympathetically, and the Taoiseach’s speech had joy in it. Joy, I think, is what Europe needs; the further progress of this Europe of ours must be a pleasure. The Irish Presidency has been a great success, and I would like to thank you personally, the Taoiseach of Ireland, the outgoing President of the European Council, and also your Minister for Europe, Dick Roche, most warmly and on behalf of our group as a whole. There are two people whose appointments you mentioned. These have to do with high ideals, and ideals – as you said – can become reality only if Europe, in the final analysis, actually works. You mentioned the former Prime Minister of Portugal, José Manuel Durão Barroso, with whom we will be having discussions this afternoon, and whom I knew both when he was leader of the Opposition, and then as Prime Minister. He has not changed. It often happens, when someone goes from being leader of the opposition to being Prime Minister, that their personality changes. He has always stayed the same, and I can only congratulate you on having proposed him. If he becomes President of the Commission, I am convinced that he will occupy this office with success. We are also grateful, though, that you have again nominated Javier Solana, who, in both political and human terms, has done a tremendous job in recent years, as High Representative and then as the first Foreign Minister of the European Union. These two nominations are, I think, excellent, and we also have to consider them in their context. I would like to conclude by mentioning something that I have been getting worked up about for a long time. It is no reproach to you; I will also be saying it to the new President of the Council. In the family photographs, the President of the Commission and the President of the European Parliament are always standing somewhere well on the fringe. That is not on. The summit of Heads of State or Government is a Community institution, at which you cannot marginalise two important Presidents, the President of the Commission and the President of Parliament. Their place is with the President of the European Council in the middle of the family photograph. That is not just a matter of protocol and I would like to say that to the persons responsible in the General Secretariat of the Council. Protocol, however, is the symbolic expression of an attitude. It is not the intergovernmental Europe that we want; instead we want the Community Europe, which you have served, and for that we want to warmly thank you. It was a happy time for us, and the former President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, is now sitting over there; that is something else we have to get used to. My dear Pat, I hope we will have another opportunity to work closely together, and the fact that you are in the plenary today shows that the passion for Europe will still be with you. Again, heartfelt thanks for the great work you did as President of this Parliament; it will never be forgotten. I would like to mention another Irishman, one whom perhaps not everyone will know, particularly not the new Members, but you know him – our friend and former colleague Joe McCartin, who was a Member of this Parliament from 1979 until the last European elections, and was the only member of our group to be honoured by the award of the Robert Schuman Medal. We need people like Joe McCartin, who do their duty day in and day out, for only those Members who do their duty day by day can help you and us to achieve things together. As the outgoing President of the European Council, you spoke in terms of a great exercise in democracy. This continent of ours is so complicated, and its diversity makes it so problematic, that holding the whole thing together is a daily exercise, and chairmen of groups have particular experience of it. As you said, Europe must function, but the most important thing is – and we are grateful to you for saying so – that we in Europe have overcome totalitarianism and the dictatorships, and that it is democracy that holds us together. That is the great European project that brings us together across party boundaries. You spoke about the Intergovernmental Conference. Let me say, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party, that we see the great priority above all others as being the European Constitution. Even more than we have done already, we should be telling the public that it not only strengthens the European Parliament, but the national parliaments as well, and thus also parliamentary government and democracy in Europe. I think we have to put even greater stress on this. The Council of Ministers is made more transparent. We would also, of course, have preferred the Preamble to make reference not only to Europe’s religious heritage, but also to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. That has not, unfortunately, been achieved, and we very much regret it, but many of our common values are to be found in the Preamble and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, so that, all in all, we can say yes to it, and it will be signed in Rome, that great European city in which, in 1957, the Treaties of Rome were signed."@en1

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