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"That was a beautiful rendition by the European Union Youth Orchestra with Pavel Kotla conducting. Thank you very much. I welcome the Presidents of the other European institutions: for the European Court of Justice, Peter Jann, the President of the First Chamber; for the European Court of Auditors, its President Vítor Caldeira; for the European Economic and Social Committee, President Dimitris Dimitriadis; for the Committee of the Regions, Luc Van den Brande; and the Ombudsman, Nikoforos Diamandouros. Welcome to the European Parliament. It is a pleasure to welcome the local and regional representatives: the Mayor of Strasbourg, Fabienne Keller, the President of the Regional Council of Alsace, Adrien Zeller, the President of the Philippe Richert, and the Prefect of the Region of Alsace and Bas-Rhin, Jean-Marc Rebière. Welcome to the European Parliament. Ladies and gentlemen, seat 146 is occupied by our colleague Astrid Lulling, who is the only one of us to have been a Member of the European Parliament in the days before it was directly elected. Almost exactly 50 years ago, on 19 March 1958, the Common Assembly of the three European institutions – the European Economic Community, the European Atomic Energy Community and the European Coal and Steel Community – convened for the first time here in Strasbourg in what was then the '. The Assembly consisted 'of representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community', as stated in the Treaty of Rome, which had entered into force a few weeks earlier. Today, we are celebrating this anniversary because we are the direct successors to that Parliamentary Assembly, and its original 142 Members, in a line of continuity. The first President of this Common Assembly was the great Robert Schuman. In his inaugural address, he said that the Assembly would play a key role in developing the European spirit, 'for which', he said, 'the Assembly was and remains the crucible'. I believe that this is as true now as it was then. At the same time, Robert Schuman warned his colleagues, at that constituent session, that parliamentary work with 142 Members – from six countries at that time – would require discipline from everyone and of course this is even more relevant today, with 785 Members from 27 countries, as we all know! Not long after the constituent session, our predecessors began to call their institution the 'European Parliament', albeit informally at first, for the term did not appear in the European Communities' founding Treaties. It was not until four years later, in March 1962, that the Parliamentary Assembly took a decision to style itself the 'European Parliament'. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you all very warmly here to the Chamber to celebrate the 50 anniversary of the constituent session of the European Parliamentary Assembly. First and foremost, may I suggest that together, we welcome by acclamation all the former Presidents who are with us here today: Emilio Colombo, Lord Henry Plumb, Enrique Barón Crespo, Egon Klepsch, Klaus Hänsch, José Maria Gil Robles, Nicole Fontaine and Josep Borrell Fontelles. Welcome to all of you, esteemed former Presidents of the European Parliament. Although the founding Treaties of the European Communities stated that the Assembly 'shall draw up proposals for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States' and that 'the Council shall, acting unanimously … lay down the appropriate provisions, which it shall recommend to Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements', it was not until 1976 that the Council – on the basis of the European Parliament's recommendation of 20 September 1976 – adopted a legislative act for the conducting of direct and universal elections to the European Parliament. Ladies and gentlemen, the Parliamentary Assembly initially had virtually no powers of its own. Our predecessors know that developing the European parliamentary dimension would be a long process and that this would require a clear compass, commitment, patience and stamina from them and subsequent generations. Step by step, the European Parliament secured more and more powers of its own, becoming ever more conscious of its responsibilities and scope for action, and I believe I can say on behalf of everyone here that today it is genuinely worthy of its name. Today we are the representatives of almost 500 million Union citizens and we reflect all the different strands of the political spectrum in the European Union. We are the freely elected Parliament of the European Union, united in our efforts to achieve the best and most convincing solutions. We have become self-assured and a major player in European politics. Ladies and gentlemen, we have reason to derive great satisfaction from that. This process began in 1958 and there have been milestones along the way, on our shared path towards European integration. In 1971 the European Community was given its own budget, and since then the European Parliament has played a key role in the adoption of successive budgets. In 1979 the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held. In 1986, with the Single European Act, the name 'European Parliament' finally took legal effect. With the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty 15 years ago, the European Parliament was finally granted full codecision powers in initial areas of Community policy, enabling it to make a real contribution to the framing of legislation, and apply the brakes, if necessary, against the will of the Council. The Amsterdam Treaty further enhanced these codecision rights, while the Lisbon Treaty will establish codecision as the rule in the crafting of European legislation, and therefore refers, appropriately, to the 'ordinary legislative procedure'. Today, we are 785 Members from 27 European nations. We represent more than 150 national political parties, most of which have joined together to form the seven parliamentary groups. We are both a legislative and a budgetary authority, on an equal footing with the Council. We exercise oversight over the European Commission and elect its President, and the Commission cannot take office without our approval. We are an advocate for the primacy of Community law, and we are the citizens' chamber of the European Union. Three weeks ago we adopted the Treaty of Lisbon, which will further strengthen our powers. In future, decisions on important issues of current concern to citizens in the European Union can be taken only if a majority in the European Parliament gives its consent. This also applies to key issues of justice and home affairs. However, this is no reason to be complacent and it is certainly not the outcome of an inevitable process. We had to fight every inch of the way. I would like to thank everyone who, over the past five decades and in the capable hands of our Presidents, has worked to strengthen the parliamentary dimension of European integration and rendered a valuable service to that process. Thank you to the Members of the European Parliament, past and present! Jean Monnet once said: 'Nothing is possible without people, and nothing is permanent without institutions'. I would also like to take a moment to remember Paul-Henri Spaak, the first President of the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) – the institution that preceded the European Parliament – who, with his report after the Messina Conference in June 1955, made a major contribution to the preparation of the Treaty of Rome. The path towards parliamentary democracy in the European Union has followed a logic that is familiar to us from the history of the European nation states. What we have created is an institutional balance between the national and the European level, which is a major success and reflects the interaction between the various levels of shared governance in Europe. An important element of this balance is the European Parliament's good cooperation with the national parliaments, which is of special concern to us. I am very happy to see that almost all the national parliaments of the Member States of the European Union have sent high-level representatives to be with us today. I would ask all of you – the Members of the European Parliament and the members of the national parliaments – to play your part in the endeavour to maintain that cooperation in future. The Treaty of Lisbon and the Charter of Fundamental Rights will make a decisive contribution towards making democracy and parliamentarianism in the European Union a reality at all levels. We can be proud, ladies and gentlemen, of our consistent and unequivocal support for the Reform Treaty and for the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We do need the critical public and critical monitoring of our work. However, we are also entitled to fairness. The European Union, in all its diversity, is more complex than any other community in the world. I would ask the media – which play a vital role in our communication with citizens – to bear that in mind. The European Union should not be used as a scapegoat for national failures. One of the greatest successes of our European vision over the past 50 years has been the assertion of democracy and freedom all over Europe. Today, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and reunited Germany are members of the European Union – an achievement which we could only dream of and which has become a reality in our lifetime. Today – as the Berlin Declaration of 25 March 2007 says – we, the citizens of the European Union, have 'united for the better'. That is a cause for great joy. In taking stock of the past 50 years, it is important that we look to the future. We should remind ourselves self-critically which aspects of Europe's parliamentary dimension are still unsatisfactory. May I also extend a very warm welcome to Janez Janša, the President-in-Office of the European Council, and José Manuel Durão Barroso, the President of the European Commission. Of course, Mr Barroso, you are a familiar face here in the Chamber, but you are especially welcome today. Unlike the national parliaments, we still do not have the possibility, in the budget procedure, to decide on the raising of our own financial resources. Parliamentary government generally entails parliamentary control of the military; however, the European Union's common foreign security and defence policy is still incomplete and does not provide for proper linkage between national and European responsibilities. We still do not have a uniform electoral law, which means that we are still lacking an important prerequisite for effective European political parties that can stand for election to the European Parliament with single lists of candidates. With patience, stamina and a good compass, the European Parliament has fought to assert its position in Europe ever since the first session of the European Parliamentary Assembly, and it must and will continue to do so in future. As Europe's directly elected supranational assembly, the European Parliament is held up as a model for similar efforts in other regions of the world. I witness this, and so do you, when we visit other parts of the world. When Robert Schuman took office as the first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly on 19 March 1958, this positive development of Europe's parliamentary dimension would have been almost impossible to predict. However, Robert Schuman had a vision. He spoke of the European idea which, he said, had to be revived, describing this as ' '. Today, after the crises surrounding the failed Constitutional Treaty, what could be a better leitmotif for the task that lies ahead? On 19 March 1958 Robert Schuman, in his brief address, expressed his concern that a technocratic view of matters could cause European integration to wither away. This is as true today as it was then. Robert Schuman was realistic, modest and clear in his description of the opportunities available to the Parliamentary Assembly, which he presided over until 1960: ' ', he said in his warm and resonant voice, ' .' Robert Schuman ended his first address as the President of the European Parliamentary Assembly by pledging to work to unify our continent, to unify Europe, which he believed must see itself as a community of values uniting the free nations of our continent: ' ' I would like to build on this. The European Union is a community of values. Our institutions are not an end in themselves, but are there to serve our values: the dignity of the individual, human rights, democracy, law, and economic and social prosperity. They serve the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. Europe means respect for each other, respect for our diversity, respect for the dignity of all our Member States, large and small. This respect cannot be imposed, but is an essential prerequisite for our mutual understanding and common action. Respect for European law, which enables us to resolve our conflicts amicably and achieve a balance of interests in a peaceful way, must be continually renewed through the unwritten rules that govern our relations in Europe: consideration and respect for one another. I would like to encourage and urge everyone – no matter where we stand on the political spectrum – to continue to show this respect for each other. If this mutual respect – marked by tolerance for one another's convictions but remaining true to our own, while being prepared to strike compromises – is successful, the European Union and the European Parliament can stand as a model for peace in the world. Our European legacy is preserved in the peace and unity of our nations, which have joined together to form the European Union. We honour Robert Schuman and all the Members of the first European Parliamentary Assembly by endeavouring to be true to their legacy, by working for a responsible and open European Parliament that is close to citizens, but which has the resolve, when necessary, to provide political leadership. If we continue to work resolutely here, we have no reason to fear the judgment of those who come after us and who, in 2058, will take stock of our work today as they celebrate the European Parliament's 100 anniversary. Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, let us rejoice together in the freedom, peace and unity of our European continent, which we are privileged to serve. It is a particular pleasure to welcome Lluís Maria de Puig, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, here to the Chamber of the European Parliament. A warm welcome to you. It is a pleasure to welcome the Presidents and Speakers of the Parliaments of Belgium, Herman van Rompuy, of Italy, Fausto Bertinotti, and of the Dutch Senate, Yvonne Timmerman-Buck, who together with other representatives of the Parliaments of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom have joined us here in the European Parliament today and whom I would also like to welcome."@en1
"'Maison de l'Europe"1
"Ainsi seulement l’Europe réussira à mettre en valeur le patrimoine total qui est commun à tous les pays libres."1
"Conseil Général du Bas-Rhin"1
"Nous désirons contribuer"1
"la relance de l’idee européenne"1
"à créer un noyau de la structure européenne"1

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