Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-12-13-Speech-3-024"

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"Mr President, I too should like to add my congratulations to the two rapporteurs, Mr Brok and Mr Stubb, for the excellent work they have done. The European Union’s fifth enlargement round is, without a doubt, one of the most ambitious projects the EU has ever brought to pass. It also serves as a point of reference, of course, for today’s discussion. Moreover, this enlargement forces us to consider the EU’s internal functioning before we launch into another round; this is why the subject of the EU’s integration capacity is once again on today’s agenda. Nevertheless, I should like to comment on the criticism of enlargement that is often quoted in respect of the debate we are having, and from which I should like to distance myself from this to some extent, because this criticism embraces a number of ideas that I find objectionable. First of all, that this enlargement was a mistake, secondly, that the European Union is full up and thirdly, that internal reforms are specifically needed in view of enlargement. This is incorrect. Enlargement represents an internal intrinsic value, tied in with the ambition to get the European Union to function more effectively. I repeat, and will continue to do so, that the enlargement of 2004 was a success and the enlargement at the beginning of next year to include Bulgaria and Romania will be no less of one. The EU is, and always will be, an open club. It has made commitments to a number of countries, and these we will have to honour. Whichever way, the European Union has to reform in order to continue to function and also because the citizens expect more from the European Union. This, indeed, brings us back to the debate on integration capacity and the enlargement strategy in business terms. The Brok and Stubb reports demonstrate, I believe, that this House has succeeded in setting out our expectations in a businesslike manner, and that the Commission has opted for the same businesslike approach, even if, as Mr Swoboda has indicated, the Commission has left a number of important questions unanswered, with the excuse that it will ‘return to them in due course’. With regard to integration capacity, what matters to us most of all is that the European Union does its homework. The present institutions and the Treaty of Nice are inadequate as a basis for the accession of new Member States. It is up to us to carry out the institutional reforms that are needed to enable new countries to be integrated at a later date. The fact that candidate countries are, in turn, responsible for making thorough preparations for membership is nothing new. The conditions have been enshrined in the Copenhagen criteria since 1993. There are some elements of the EU’s integration capacity the importance of which is self-evident. We need the institutions in order for the European Union to function democratically and effectively, and we need a budget that is commensurate with the EU’s ambitions; I should, however, also like to say something about what is termed ‘capacity to act’, which is, as I see it, of crucial importance. What also matters is that the European Union, the Commission, and the Member States, should take initiatives that meet the wishes and expectations of the European public; these must also be central in the communication about the European Union. The European Union must demonstrate what it is capable of and must be able to put this across, for this is the only way in which we have a chance of successfully creating, and retaining, a support structure for European cooperation, and enlargement is part of this; we should not see enlargement as a separate area of policy that we must adopt in separation. Enlargement must also form part of what the Commission calls its ‘citizens' agenda’. Only if public debate that is stirred into life on the basis of a Europe that performs better can we expect citizens to be positive about enlargement in future. I should like to finish off with a comment about Turkey, a subject on which Mr Swoboda has already touched. Our group supports Commissioner Rehn’s position. He has, as we see it, tabled a sensible proposal, namely that we must respond to Turkey’s failure to implement the Ankara Protocol. At the same time, we agree with him that we should not slam the door shut completely. The channels of communication must remain open, and we support the partial suspension or delay in the negotiations to which you yourself referred. We continue to hammer home the need for Turkey to meet its legal obligations in respect of the European Union, but also, at the same time, for discussions not to be broken off completely. On a final note, we hope that next year, the Commission and the Council will take initiatives in order to address the isolation, particularly of an economic nature, of Northern Cyprus."@en1

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