Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-03-26-Speech-3-012"

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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the economic situation in the European Union is stable but it is under threat. That is the conclusion drawn by this European Council. Growth is still stable and employment is increasing, but it is nonetheless under threat. The question is this: what is the source of this threat? The threat comes from the slowdown of economic activity in the US, which is one outcome of the financial crisis in the major corporate banks, in other words, in the investment banks, in that country. Just so that there are no misunderstandings: there are certain industry lobbyists who will interpret this to mean that there are not enough checks and not enough pressure on industry when the Council makes pronouncements of this kind. In fact, the opposite is the case. We will only achieve our climate targets if industry plays its part. By the same token, however, we will only achieve our targets if we industry to play its part. Both aspects are essential. If we want to tackle climate change, we have to do so in Europe, and that is why the international agreements rightly give European industry the chance to compete on an equal footing with industry elsewhere in the world. That conclusion was the right one and we greatly welcome it. Let me make a final comment about the Mediterranean Union, which you will now find mentioned on page 19 of the Conclusions, and that itself is another message from the Council. We are pleased that there is now clarity on this issue, and you are right in what you have been saying about neighbourhood policy in the Mediterranean. Prime Minister Janša has rightly pointed out that partnership policy here must entail partnership policy elsewhere. My colleague Mr Swoboda will comment in a moment on the Eastern dimension in particular on behalf of our Group, as we will be putting forward our own set of proposals on this issue. Let me conclude with an appraisal. This was a Council of normality. It fell short of the mark in terms of social policy: that has unfortunately become the norm in the European Union, but it is something that can be addressed. It was 'business as usual' as far as the Mediterranean Union was concerned. We saw the 'helicopter method' being deployed here: 'whip up a storm of dust and before the dust settles, the helicopter takes off again'. We need something more tangible here, you are quite right. If these tangible results are to be delivered – and this final sentence is directed at you, Mr President – they must be delivered through cooperation with the European Parliament. The fact is that anything that is decided within the framework of the Mediterranean Union requires funding from the European Parliament, which is why it is extremely important that the Conclusions should state that the European Parliament will be fully involved in the future structures of the Mediterranean Union. Thank you very much for your attention. I would also like to thank our unfailingly cheerful colleagues from the CSU who have had to show me such forbearance. President Barroso, you have said that as one of its conclusions, the Council states that we in the European Union must be ready to take regulatory and supervisory action if necessary in response to this development in the international financial markets. Let me ask you this: when, if not now, should this action be initiated? Now is the time to look at the precise mechanisms by which the ‘Wild West’ capitalism pursued by investors in the international financial markets is putting Europe's growth at risk. In my view, as one of its conclusions this European Council should have set out in a far more detailed fashion which instruments we should use in order to exercise this scrutiny. Mr President, we have taken note of the fact that this Council has made an effort to talk in slightly more detail about the social dimension of Europe. However, rather than offering a coherent concept, it does so on a 'piecemeal' basis. The fifth freedom, for example, Prime Minister Janša, is part of social policy. You are right, knowledge is power, that is absolutely right. However, knowledge also creates opportunities for access to economic development in the world, and knowledge creates opportunities to have a stake in an increasingly diverse labour market. In all occupational sectors, the best-placed worker is the one who is well-qualified, who has access to knowledge and who is in a position to update this knowledge on an ongoing basis. For that reason, access to knowledge also means access to social justice. When we talk about the social dimension of Europe, to us this means that we must adopt an integral approach. It does not mean merely passing a few comments here and there about social policy. That is why, from our perspective – from the Socialist Group's perspective – the Council has once again fallen short of our expectations in relation to the social dimension of Europe. That is why we listened with great interest when you said that the Commission is going to undertake coherent stock-taking of the social dimension of the internal market, the European Union's social dimension, this summer and will present the results of this process to us. We will use this as a yardstick to gauge your performance. You are aiming to make progress here, and we will be watching to see how you match up. However, we will be gauging your performance in another sense as well. It is not acceptable that the Council – and I am turning to you, Prime Minister Janša, and to you, Commission President — should be ignoring the opinions of the European Parliament. I have here a list of the official documents submitted to the Council. It includes eight documents submitted by various formations of the Council, an Opinion of the EESC on the employment of priority categories (Lisbon Strategy) and a resolution of the Committee of the Regions. There is not a single document from the European Parliament on this list, not even the document we produced about the Lisbon Strategy. This is a lamentable state of affairs, in my Group's view, because it shows that you are not taking the social dimension, the European Parliament itself and the opinion of this House sufficiently seriously. Some progress has been made: that was what my colleagues said when we asked them during our Group debate what they thought of climate policy. Yes, it is true that climate change is the key challenge that we face, and substantial progress has been made at this Council, with a balance having been struck between climate policy requirements, on the one hand, and industry requirements, on the other. Achieving this balance is a task for all the institutions."@en1

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