Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-01-17-Speech-3-008"
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". Mr President, Mr Poettering, Mr President of the Commission, Mr Barroso, honourable Members – whom, as a representative of a national parliament, I am tempted to call colleagues – ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to be able to address you today, for the first time as President of the Council, and, standing before a Parliament whose Members are now drawn from twenty-seven Member States, so please allow me once more to extend a particularly warm welcome to the Members from Romania and Bulgaria. Today, we are extending it, enlarging it, in several places, restoring it; and sometimes I find myself thinking that, if we are so very occupied with extending and renewing the building, so that, today almost half a billion Europeans can call it home, then it would be easy for us, with all this building work going on, to miss what is so great, so unique, about it, to be sometimes scarcely able to grasp what it is that really makes this building what it is, what is at its heart. That is how many people in Europe feel today; one feels it back home. They ask themselves: what is Europe meant to be? What do we need it for? What, at its very core, holds Europe together? In what does this European Union consist? There are those who think there is little to be gained from trying to determine Europe’s nature; I have to say, speaking frankly, that I take a completely different view. I think back to Jacques Delors, who, famously, said: ‘We have to give Europe a soul’. To that, I would add, putting it in my own way, that we have to find Europe’s soul, for the fact is that we do not need to give Europe a soul, for it already has one. Is this soul diversity? Scarcely anyone has expressed that more beautifully than the author Karel Čapek, a great European from Prague, and I quote: ‘He who made Europe made it small, even dividing it into tiny pieces, so that our hearts might rejoice, not in its size, but in its diversity’. Diversity? It is true to say – there is no doubt about it – that it is from its diversity that Europe lives; the differences between our nations, between the regions of Europe, the various languages and ways of looking at the world are all things that we want to retain. We have neither the ability nor the desire to harmonise all the things that are capable of being harmonised. Yes, it is true: Europe lives from its diversity, but it is also true that diversity as such cannot be the universal European principle that helps us to understand what holds Europe together at its deepest level, in other words, what its soul is. Even so, by recognising the diversity of nations and people, we do achieve something else; it is this that brings us to what actually is the right question, the one we have to answer. That question is: what is it that makes Europe’s diversity possible? I think the answer to this question is crystal clear; it is freedom that makes our diversity possible. It is freedom on which our diversity depends, and by that I mean freedom in all its aspects: the freedom to express one’s opinions openly, even when they disturb others; the freedom to believe or not to believe; the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial activity; the freedom of the artist to shape his work according to his own conceptions. It is this freedom that Europe needs, in the same way that we need air in order to breathe. When it is restricted, we are stunted. It is, for Europe, a matter of life and death always to be aware of the fact that freedom is not something that, once gained, can never be lost. Freedom must be won anew virtually every day. Freedom is not without its obligations; it is inseparable from responsibility. If, then, we are to talk about freedom, we are actually talking about the freedom of others; it involves us saying, in Voltaire’s celebrated words, which I quote: ‘I may detest what you say, but I will give my life to defend your right to say it’. I see Voltaire as embodying the soul of Europe He does so because that saying of his shows that what distinguishes Europe, that which constitutes its soul, is the way we handle our diversity. We Europeans have learned from our history how to make the most of diversity, and that characteristic that enables us to do that, that fits us for freedom in responsibility for others, is a valuable thing. That characteristic is tolerance. Europe’s soul is tolerance. Europe is the continent of tolerance. It has taken us centuries to learn that, and the process of learning tolerance has led us through suffering and calamity as we persecuted one another, attempted to exterminate one another, laid our homeland waste, and imperilled those things we hold sacred. The worst period of hatred, devastation and destruction lies less than a human lifetime in our past. What was done then was done in the name of my people. This history, stretching over centuries, certainly does not entitle us Europeans to look down on the peoples in various regions of the earth today who are finding the practice of tolerance difficult. Those same centuries of history do, though, impose on us, in Europe, the obligation to promote tolerance the length and breadth of Europe and throughout the world, and to help everyone to put it into practice. Tolerance is indeed a demanding virtue; it demands our hearts and minds, it is something for which we have to make sacrifices, but not under any circumstances is it to be confused with indifference or the refusal to take sides, and, moreover, tolerance – of the sort we need in Europe – is about more than renouncing violence, it is about more than merely tolerating the other; on the contrary, it calls on us to want the other. There is a quite simple way to reach the soul of Europe, to achieve tolerance; it necessarily involves us seeing things as other people see them. Just try it sometime; discovering the diversity of our continent – wherein our wealth resides – with the eyes of Europe’s many peoples is an exciting adventure, but we must not, in our fascination with it, forget that tolerance constantly faces new challenges. Let me make it clear, then, that Europe must never show even the slightest sympathy with intolerance I would also like to congratulate again – not least on behalf of the Council, the President of your House and the Vice-Presidents, who were elected yesterday, and would like, at the beginning of the German Presidency, to offer you good, close, constructive and hard-working cooperation, as is only fitting when one is working together with what your President has just described as a self-assured parliament. never even the slightest sympathy with the violence of extremists from left or right, or with violence in the name of a religion; if it fails to defend itself against intolerance, tolerance digs its own grave, or, as Thomas Mann put it, ‘Tolerance, when it extends to evil, becomes a crime’. It is tolerance without yielding to intolerance that makes people human. In Lessing’s famous parable of the rings, Nathan the Wise tells the story of a dispute between three brothers as to who is the rightful inheritor of their father’s ring, and hence of religious truth, and the status as heir manifests itself only through good deeds, in which the brothers are to strive to outdo one another. Here, I think, we encounter anew the soul of Europe, in seeking the best in peaceful coexistence with, indeed, in peaceful commitment to, one another. For me, as one who, as a Christian, explicitly affirms the Christian principles that underpin Europe, the finest thing in the play is the request that the Sultan makes of Nathan, when, despite all the boundaries of faith that divide them, he, as a Moslem, asks the Jew to ‘be my friend’. That is indeed what we are seeking after and striving for; the co-existence of peoples one with another that was, and still is, the great goal of European integration. It was from that starting point that the first steps towards Europe were taken after 1945: neither the treaty on the Coal and Steel Community nor, indeed, the Treaties of Rome had much – if anything – to say about our culture, and it is mentioned only marginally in the Treaty of Maastricht. None of these treaties, though, would have been possible without a vision for a shared Europe, a vision, that is to say, of what Europe, at its very heart, is all about. They did, however, already touch on important questions concerning European coexistence and manage to answer some of them. It is, then, on that basis for our present tasks that I can affirm my belief in a Europe in which all Member States – large and small, old and new – coexist as equals. It is only if we stick together that Europe will be a success. It is precisely because Europe is something we can achieve only together that our presidency is under the motto of ‘Europe – succeeding together’– and to that I would add that it is only if we stick together that Europe will be a success. I believe in a Europe that concentrates on the things that are best managed at European level, but does so really effectively and with the necessary dedication. On the other hand, though, I believe in a Europe that quite deliberately leaves areas of policy where European regulation would tend to be a hindrance to the Member States, to their regions and to their local authorities to deal with. I have spent all my life in Europe, but, in the European Union, I am still only a teenager, for I grew up in the former GDR, and it was only 17 years ago, following the reunification of Germany that resulted from the downfall of socialism, that I – like many millions of other people – became a citizen of the European Union. It follows, then, that, until I was 35, I knew the European Union only from the outside, and have known it from the inside only since 1990. I believe in a Europe that explicitly backs European solutions where it needs and wants to take joint action in order to be equal to such challenges of the twenty-first century as globalisation and the threats posed to peace and security by new dangers, terrorism being one of them It is my conviction that it is only our understanding of tolerance that, ultimately, enables us to face all these challenges. The draft constitutional treaty is the first European treaty document to make explicit reference to tolerance as a characteristic of the Member States of the European Union, and as something with which we create the basis on which the Europe of the future can devise new and rational rules, by which I mean rules that will be commensurate with the new size of the European Union and with the challenges facing it and will have to make us capable of acting effectively. The fact is that we know that the rules as they stand at present neither enable the EU to be further enlarged, nor do they equip it to take the decisions that have to be taken. This is a state of affairs that we must put behind us. If we are to do that, the EU’s powers and responsibilities, and those of the Member States, will have to be clearly described, Procedural rules will have to be defined with greater clarity than they have been before. To put it another way, the treaties that serve as our foundations must be adapted to changed conditions if the European Union is to survive in tomorrow’s world. It is with those facts in mind that I will, at the European Council’s behest, be consulting with all the Member States, the Commission and your House on how to find a way out of the crisis around the ratification of the constitutional treaty. The period of reflection is behind us; we now have to come up with new decisions by June. I am committed to making it possible for a timetable for the remainder of the constitution-making process to be adopted by the end of the German Presidency of the Council. It is in the interests of Europe, of its Member States and of its citizens, that this process be satisfactorily completed before the spring of 2009, when the next elections to the European Parliament will be held. Not accomplishing this would amount to an historic failure. Let us get stuck in to this task, and, in doing so, let us – as we have been before when taking historic decisions about Europe – bear in mind the way we handle our diversity, in other words, be guided by the spirit of tolerance, for the political, economic and social challenges that we face are indeed great, and they are very real. I think there are two priority areas. For a start, the European Union is beset on every side by challenges to its foreign and security policies. In Kosovo, it will be monitoring the implementation of a solution to the problem of that region’s status. Stability in the Western Balkans is in the interests of all of us, and to that I would add that, this stability will be elusive if the states of the Western Balkans have no prospect of being Member States of the EU. It is a fact of life that, almost always, everything looks different from the inside to what it does from the outside; that is the case with every house, and it is true also of Europe. Viewed from the outside, the European Union is an historic success story without parallel, one of the most impressive peaceful endeavours on this planet. European unification has been a stroke of great good fortune for the peoples of Europe, securing their freedom and making prosperity possible for them. In the Middle East, the European Union must work together with the United States of America, the UN and Russia in moving the peace process forward; this can be summed up as a task for what is known as the Middle East Quartet, but further progress, and the achievement of peace, stability and sustainable development in the Middle East, will be dependent on the European Union presenting a united front. The same can be said of the way we handle Iran and its nuclear programme. In exactly the same way, Europe has an intrinsic interest in successful developments in Afghanistan. We know that only a combination of military and civilian endeavour will bring success; all the alternatives lead us into a dead end. In its own neighbourhood, the European Union must show itself more willing to be politically creative than has hitherto been the case, for, while many countries desire accession, some of them will have to be disappointed. A neighbourhood policy is the rational and attractive alternative to that, and we will, under our presidency, be giving particular attention to developing a neighbourhood policy of this kind for Central Asia and the region around the Black Sea. We also need to make every effort to make the Doha Round a success, for there is too much at stake, not only for us, but also for the developing countries. There is little time left in which to achieve a successful outcome, and we are determined to do everything possible to bring one about. We are not, however, standing still in this respect, for we want to hold a summit between the European Union and the USA at which to consider a deeper economic partnership across the Atlantic. The USA is the European Union’s most important trading partner. We are each others’ most important partners in investment. It is in the interest of our global competitiveness that we must bring down even more trade barriers in such areas as patent law, industrial standards or access to stock markets. I am firmly convinced that a single trans-Atlantic market is in Europe’s intrinsic best interests. We must not look only towards America; the partnership with Russia is also of strategic importance for Europe, and it is because it needs to be developed to its utmost extent that a new partnership and cooperation agreement must be negotiated. In those negotiations, cooperation in energy matters will assume crucial importance. We will do everything in our power to get negotiations on that started before the end of the German Presidency. Let me make it perfectly clear that we need a stable relationship with Russia, for there can be no growth in trust without one. At the same time, of course, we cannot leave on one side such issues as the freedom of the media and of civil society or Russia’s conflicts with its neighbours. It is our intention that the cornerstone of a global climate agreement from 2012 onwards be laid at the European Council in March and at the summit of the G8, over which Germany will also be presiding. If this is to happen, we know that Europe must blaze a trail, but we also know that we need to have the United States of America, among other countries, on-side, and so it is important that the USA be encouraged, where energy and climate policies are concerned, to work more closely with the European Union than it has done to date, for I am not exaggerating when I say that access to energy and the handling of climate change constitute the two great challenges that the human race will have to face in the twenty-first century. We also want to redefine our relationships with Africa. Africa is changing. It is our neighbour. Investment in it – in both economic and political terms – is worthwhile and also a smart move, and so we will shortly be embarking on preparations for an EU/Africa summit, to be held under the Portuguese Presidency. My intention in taking your House on this brief global round-trip is to set out important challenges in the spheres of foreign and security policy, but, brief as this review has to be today, it will surely already be clear to you that it is only together that we can meet them. What we have to do we must do together; it is for precisely that reason, and in order that our words may be backed up by our deeds, that European foreign policy calls for a European foreign minister. That is another reason why we need the constitutional treaty. Just as Europe must find new directions in its dealings with the outside world, it must do the same on the domestic front, for what our citizens expect of Europe, and of their governments, is that they will secure our standard of living, promote growth, create jobs and establish social security – in short, that they will maintain and develop our European model of the social state, and, moreover, enable it to withstand the pressures of globalisation. That, therefore, is the second priority of our work during our presidency of the Council. The Lisbon Strategy is founded upon the vision of a thriving and social Europe that also has a responsible approach to its environment. The economy is now growing, and this tendency is set to accentuate itself; that must not, of course be seen as an end in itself, and so when I hear the word ‘growth’ it is jobs that come to my mind. I am convinced that employment must be our first and principal concern, that that is what the social Europe is all about. We must also, of course, concern ourselves with the conditions under which jobs can be created; that is why energy will be a subject of pre-eminent importance at the March Council, at which we will be debating the Commission’s proposals and considering them from every angle. Something that I regard as inseparable from the question of how we can create jobs and how we can be competitive and more efficient is the reduction of superfluous bureaucracy, which is another long-term task for the European Union. The Treaties of Rome will soon be 50 years old. We will be celebrating this anniversary on 24 and 25 March in Berlin, a city that is itself unequalled as a symbol of the reunification of Europe after the end of the Cold War. Let us be honest, though; 50 years is, in essence and in terms of history, no more than the blink of an eye. It has to be said, however, that, in this brief period of time, an unimaginable amount has been achieved in Europe. That, then, is Europe as seen from the outside. We will therefore be monitoring very closely the Commission's initiatives to this end, with which you will all be familiar under the heading of ‘better regulation’. What I would also like to see, although I am aware that it will be difficult, is a debate on the related subject of what is termed the ‘discontinuity principle’ according to which legislative projects that have never actually become law are erased when new elections to the European Parliament fall due. This is what happens in most of the Member States, and it is a good democratic practice, so why is it not also done at the European level? If it were, then a new political start could be made when a new Commission was sworn in and the Members of the new Parliament took their seats. I am certain that this sort of democratic pause would make the elections to your House even more significant, and I ask you, honourable Members, to support the Council Presidency in this by submitting to it your own suggestions and ideas as to how this might work. By no means will all of these tasks be accomplished in the space of six months. We have to – and we want to – overcome the limitations on breathing space occasioned by Council Presidencies lasting six months. It is because Europe needs continuity that the idea of a trio presidency is so important. I am glad that I will, at midday today here in Strasbourg, be inaugurating, together with my Portuguese and Slovene counterparts, the European Union’s first trio presidency. I might also mention that this idea for achieving more continuity in Europe is one of the innovations contained in the constitutional treaty. It is not fortuitous that, as I finish sharing my thoughts with you, we come back to the need for reform of the Treaties. What is not a matter of doubt is that a slow, bureaucracy-ridden and divided Europe will not be equal to any of the tasks I have mentioned, whether in foreign and security policy or in climate and energy policy, in relation to European research policy, in the cutting back of bureaucracy or in enlargement and neighbourhood policy. All these challenges demand united action on Europe’s part; they demand rules that make that sort of action possible; they call for additional effort, and for the willingness to accept change and renewal. With this in mind, I find it worth the effort to take a look at the conditions under which the regions of the world develop with the greatest success. In his researches into this, the American scientist Richard Florida has come up with three significant factors – technology, talents and tolerance. Only when all three of them occur together is sustainable growth in forward-moving sectors possible. Technology, talents and tolerance – what good news for Europe, and what a good watchword for our actions! Technology, talents and tolerance – Europe lives from innovation. It is from scientific and technical progress, economic progress and social progress that Europe lives. Yet seen from the inside, too, the European Union makes a wonderful home, even more beautiful, I think – and that is my experience of the last seventeen years – than when seen from outside; it is a home that I wish never again to leave. There is no better place than our common European home for our life in Europe – of that I am convinced. It also lives on curiosity. That is why Europeans invented something wonderful: universities. They are among the many European ideas that are nowadays taken for granted the whole world over, and curiosity cannot freely unfold without tolerance. The reason for that is that only those who do not think their own opinion is the last word or in every respect superior to someone else’s can have any sort of interest in finding out what others think, what they have experienced and what they have learned. It is only those, too, who concede that others can have smart ideas, can have a moral stance and act in a responsible manner who are ready to learn from them, and in doing so they can win, grow and develop themselves. Learning from one another leads to new insights. We might well, nowadays, call that innovation, but I mean that in a far wider sense than the merely technological. It has to do with cultural creativity, political concepts, and intellectual ideas. Without its outstanding capacity for innovation, Europe would not have become what it is today. I would encourage us – no, I will go further and urge us – to remain curious in a spirit of tolerance, curious because we believe that, even in the twenty-first century, we are capable of shaping the world around us. The German author Peter Prange, in his book, ‘Werte. Von Plato bis Pop’ [Values, from Plato to Pop)] wrote something very true, in the words, ‘Everything we Europeans have ever achieved, we owe to the contradictions within us, the eternal conflict inside ourselves, the constant jostling between opinions and conflicting opinions, ideas and opposing ideas, theses and antitheses.’ And why, I ask you, in the wake of countless wars and immeasurable suffering, is it that, out of all our inconsistencies in Europe, out of all our contradictions, something as magnificent as the European Union managed to emerge from the Treaties of Rome 50 years ago? What has enabled us to make the best of all this? You guessed it: It is that which, in my view, distinguishes Europe, the way we handle our diversity, which is tolerance. Why should we not manage to do the same over the next 50 years?"@en1
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