Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-07-10-Speech-4-143"
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"Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to address your Assembly at such a critical moment for Europe. I am well aware that we all bear a heavy responsibility. Of course, as President-in-Office of the Council, I have a great responsibility, but the responsibility of all pro-Europeans is the same. May I add, just to be perfectly clear – it is my opinion, but that does not make it the truth – that I am one of those who have always supported European enlargement. The 2004 enlargement was a success. The family is back together; we should not regret that. However, I am one of those who have always wished that Europe had been wise enough to create new institutions before enlargement. That was a mistake and we are paying for it today. It would have been braver to establish institutions before enlargement. I want to be perfectly clear on this. Of course I do not regret enlargement. The family must stay together. However, I am adamant, President Pöttering, that we must not make the same mistakes again. If we stick with Nice, it is the Europe of 27. If we want enlargement – and personally I do – we need new institutions before enlarging. Who would have thought that Europe, with its 27 Member States, would be incapable of establishing its own institutions and that it would have no other priority than to keep on enlarging? Things have to be clear: if we want enlargement – and we do want enlargement – then we need new institutions. Let me add – and I am saying this to Mr Schulz – that I am in favour of bringing in the Balkans, that our Croatian friends, like our Serbian friends, are unquestionably European. However, the most pro-enlargement countries cannot say, ‘we do not want Lisbon’, yet at the same time, ‘we want enlargement’. It is Lisbon and enlargement. It is not blackmail, because in Europe, we do not do blackmail. It is a matter of consistency, honesty and logic. When it comes to Croatia, therefore, we must continue the negotiations, but everyone must shoulder their responsibilities. If Europe is to grow, and it must, then it must do so with new institutions. Another point: here and there in European debates I come across people saying, ‘well look, it does not matter if we have a multi-speed Europe.’ Perhaps one day we will unfortunately have to have a multi-speed Europe, but that can only be a last resort. Europe has paid dearly for being divided by a wall of shame. Europe has paid dearly for the dictatorship imposed on 80 million Europeans. Let us think hard before we leave anyone behind. When we were negotiating the Lisbon Treaty in Brussels, France fought to ensure that Poland could take its place in the Lisbon Treaty. How can we tell 38 million Poles that it is much easier to shake off the yoke of the dictatorship that they were under, and from which they freed themselves, thanks to high-calibre people such as Lech Walesa and Jean-Paul II, than to remain in a free Europe? There are 27 members in this family. Nobody should be left behind. We must bring everybody in the European family on board; that, at least, is what the French Presidency will work towards. Regarding other issues, and I believe that we can reach a consensus on them, nothing would be worse than for Europe to give the impression of being immobile because it is going through yet another an institutional drama. That would be an awful trap for us to fall into. We reject institutions that condemn us to immobility, but at the same time, Europeans are impatient because they think we are too immobile. Notwithstanding the institutional problem, perhaps even because of the institutional problem, Europe has a duty to act, and to act now. This is the message that the French Presidency would like us all to send to Europeans. We are in the process of resolving the institutional problems, but we are not condemned to inaction. What, then, are our priorities? The first is to show Europeans that Europe can protect them. Now I would like to say something about this word ‘protection’. Since ancient times, whenever people have elected a government, it was so that this government would protect them. Mr President, Europe must offer protection without protectionism. Protectionism gets us nowhere. Seeing European citizens today think that Europe, which was designed to protect them, is a source of concern rather than protection, is a real step backwards. Therefore, it is up to us to show how Europe is going to protect them on concrete issues. How do we get Europe out of the crisis in which it finds itself? How do we prevent immobility? How do we overcome our disagreements and use them to serve the same European ideal? Here we stand at the heart of European democracy. Each one of you, having the honour of sitting in this Parliament, has had to win the support of your compatriots. There are men and women of the left, of the centre, of the right; there are elected representatives from 27 countries. However, today we must turn our differences into a strength for an ailing European Union. The first is the energy and climate package. If there is one area in which our nations can do nothing if they act alone, it is in maintaining the ecological balance of our planet. When it comes to pollution, CO and the ozone layer, the borders between our countries are irrelevant. The stakes are high: since the meeting of IPCC experts, we have realised that we are the last generation that can prevent disaster. The last generation! If we do not do anything now, future generations may be able to limit the damage, but they will not be able to stop it. Every country in the world says: ‘I am willing to do something provided that the others start first.’ With this type of reasoning, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will never see any decisions made. If we Europeans wait for others to do something before we act, we could be waiting a long time. We created Europe to take our model of civilization to the world and to defend our values. Among those values is the certainty that the world is doomed if we do not take a decision right away. Europe must set an example. Europe must lead by example. We have a goal: the 2009 conference. This conference must manage and organise the post-Kyoto phase. Europe must come to it united, having decided to adopt the energy and climate package. If we do not, we will not have any leverage to get the Chinese, Indians, emerging countries and Americans to make the efforts that we have agreed on. Therefore, it is essential that, under the French Presidency, we adopt the energy and climate package submitted by the Commission. It is a demanding package, it is a difficult package, but I would like to appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility. If every country starts wanting to renegotiate its own particular bugbear, the things it has a problem with, then, ladies and gentlemen, we will never reach an agreement. This is why the French Presidency is asking the European Parliament to rally behind it so that we can get the energy and climate package adopted within the next six months. That is a priority. It is not a right-wing or a left-wing priority, it is simply common sense. If we go into negotiations Member State by Member State, we have no chance of succeeding. Now, of course, there are points that need to be clarified or adapted. I am thinking in particular of a very difficult matter: namely the problems for our firms, on which we are rightly going to impose rules to maintain the balance of the planet. Should we, in Europe, impose essential rules on our firms and, at the same time, continue to import products from countries that do not abide by any of the rules that we impose on our businesses? That is not a matter of protectionism; it is a matter of fairness, justice and refusing to be naive. There is the problem of deciding on a border mechanism. Should there be free quotas or adjustment mechanisms? I do not know, but, in any case, we have to discuss it. Second question: I understand that, for some countries – I am thinking particularly of those that joined us in 2004, which largely rely on fossil fuels for their energy – the efforts demanded of them are considerable. These countries are telling us, ‘we have had growth for 10 years; please do not take that away from us.’ No doubt there is a way to get everyone on board and, with the President of the Commission, we have to work on it so that everyone realises that they will not be doomed to recession, misery, poverty and unemployment. This energy and climate package is an absolute priority for us. The world cannot wait; Europe has to lead the way. Second point: of the 27 countries, 24 are now in the Schengen Area; in other words, 24 countries out of 27. 23, you say? OK, 23 then, but that is still not bad. This does not include countries that are not members of the European Union but – and this is why we often have debates – are part of the Schengen Area. So what does this mean? It means that we have decided on complete freedom of movement between the Schengen Area countries. I would like to say to the leaders of the political groups and to members of parliament that we in France, with Bernard Kouchner and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, have taken a decision that was not easy to take. Since 1 July, there have no longer been any barriers preventing access to the French labour market, because I have announced that I will abolish all of the restrictions negotiated by my predecessors. Any worker from any EU country can come and work in France. We must make these differences an opportunity to reassure European citizens, who are worried. We must keep democracy alive, which means that we must engage in debate and at the same time create an image of a Europe that rejects immobility. Everyone must be on board in the European family, with its 27 Member States; nobody must be left behind. We are just a few months away from an important date for the European Parliament. It is reasonable for everyone to be conscious of this. At the same time, we must give the impression this morning of a Europe that is working for everyone. It was not that simple; it was not that easy. In any case, and French MEPs will correct me if I am wrong, I was told that it would be a disaster if I announced this decision. As usual, we made the decision, and no disaster materialised. I was not happy about the dispute over the infamous ‘Polish plumber’, which did not give my country or indeed Europe a very good name. That is not why we all built the European Union. Nevertheless, now that we no longer have any borders between us, is it fair, is it reasonable for each of us to go on deciding our own immigration policy, taking no notice of the others’ constraints? The European Pact on Immigration and Asylum is an essential document for the French Presidency, for two reasons. The first of these – and may I turn to the left of the Chamber first – is that if all of us, if all European countries have a European immigration policy, we remove immigration from national debates where extremists use poverty and fear to serve values that are not ours. The only way to have a responsible debate on immigration is to make it a European policy. No more partisan ulterior motives compelling countries with different sensitivities to work together. What Brice Hortefeux suggested, which was approved by all ministers and should be discussed by the Permanent Representatives Committee and by the European Council, seems to me a priority. It will show that Europe does not want to be a fortress, that Europe is not refusing to take people in, that Europe needs migrant workers, but that Europe cannot take in everyone who would like to come to Europe. Let me add that, when it comes to political asylum, it is not logical for one individual to be able to submit 27 applications to 27 democratic countries and not get the same answers every time to the same problem. Let me add that, for development with Africa, we will be stronger if we work together; this is the second priority of the French Presidency. Third priority: we want to further a concept often talked about in Europe, but which is making slow progress, and that is European defence. I am well aware that there is a lot of disagreement surrounding this issue, but let me tell you what I believe. How do you think Europe can become a political power and make itself heard if it cannot defend itself and deploy resources in support of its policy? Take the example of Kosovo, which to my mind is a European Union success story. This is a European problem, which has to be settled by Europeans. How can Europeans continue to do that if they do not acquire the military and human resources to enforce the decisions that we have taken together? How do you think that Europe can become the most prosperous economic area in the world if it is unable to defend itself? Yes, we have NATO. It would not occur to anyone, least of all me, to dispute the usefulness of NATO. It is not a matter of choosing between a European defence policy or NATO, but of having NATO – the alliance with the Americans – and an autonomous European security policy. It is both of these together, not one instead of the other. Let me add that we cannot go on having Europe ensuring its security based on the contribution of just four or five countries, with the others relying on the efforts of these four or five countries. The Member States cannot keep on building their own aircraft separately, having armaments industries that compete with each other to the point of ruin and ultimately are weakened, simply because they are not strong enough to have a European defence policy. I have seen easier situations than the one in which Europe now finds itself. If I may speak freely, conscious that, as President-in-Office of the Council, I must speak on everyone’s behalf, I have to take account of everyone’s sensibilities and at the same time come up with the right answers. Fourth priority: the extremely difficult issue of the common agricultural policy. I am coming now to my conclusion, which is linked with this. It is precisely because it is difficult that we need to talk about it. I am perfectly aware that among us we have agricultural States that fiercely defend the work of their farmers and, at the same time, States that think that this policy costs too much. Ladies and gentlemen, may I appeal to your common sense. In 2050 the world will have 9 billion inhabitants. Already, there 800 million people who are dying of starvation. A child starves to death every 30 seconds. Is it reasonable to ask Europe to reduce its agricultural production at a time when the world has such great need of foodstuffs? I do not think that this is reasonable. It is not about French agriculture; it is about common sense. Let me add a second point: regardless of whether your country is an agricultural one, food security concerns everyone. Is it reasonable to impose, rightly, traceability and safety rules on our breeders and farmers and go on importing meat into Europe which comes from other countries that do not abide by any of the rules that we are imposing on our farmers? Third point: agricultural prices have never been so high. It is precisely the right time to talk about prices, to talk about subsidies and to talk about Community preference. I also think that between the common agricultural policy’s health check and financial arbitration, we might be able to agree on certain concepts such as food sufficiency and food security for Europe. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a host of other topics: the social dimension, for example, is a huge issue. May I make one point. Sometimes I see a certain contradiction: a single-minded view sometimes exists that Europe should not meddle with everything and that Europe should intervene only in areas that concern it. However, the same people who accuse Europe of poking its nose into everything are the first to speak up when we do not talk about the social dimension. Until now, the Member States have always wanted social policy to be first and foremost a national competence, because pensions and healthcare are primarily national issues. Ladies and gentlemen, there are a number of social directives that President Barroso did well to put on the agenda. I am thinking of those on works councils, temporary work and a number of basic rules which have to be imposed on everyone in Europe. The French Presidency will make this a priority. Other subjects too should be put on the French Presidency’s agenda, even though they are not within Europe’s remit. Let me take an example of something which affects us all: Alzheimer’s disease. Mr Cohn-Bendit, it would never have occurred to me that someone so young as you should already be affected by a disease which, although it does not affect you, affects millions of Europeans. These millions of Europeans are just as important to me as your health. First observation: we have an institutional problem. Heads of State or Government have tried to find a compromise with the Lisbon Treaty. No one said that the Lisbon Treaty was going to solve all of our problems, but it was and remains the expression of a compromise acceptable to everyone. I myself, as President of the French Republic, had to face up to my responsibilities. France voted ‘no’ in 2005 and this caused a problem for France. Ladies and gentlemen, the issues that we have to address are very difficult and complex; let us try to give everyone the idea that we are working on this with no ulterior motives and no preconceptions. That is what is expected of us. Of course, subsidiarity means that this is not a European competence. Nevertheless, I would like the French Presidency to organise a meeting of all specialists from all European countries so that we can share best practice, so that our researchers can pool their skills to find out more about this disease and so that together we can find a solution. Just imagine what Europeans would say about Europe then: it is a way of curing these awful diseases. What I said about Alzheimer’s could apply to cancer, which breaks families apart. There is no reason for everyone to work on their own on finding solutions to cancer when together we will have more resources and be stronger. Finally, with regard to culture and sport, let me say that it is a big mistake not to talk about the issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Europeans. There is a European cultural exception. We must make culture a part of everyday debate in Europe. The world does not have to bow down to one language and one culture. We must clearly address the question of VAT on videos and CDs, like that of VAT on books, which you have settled. On sport, which transcends political divides, let me just say that I would like there to be a sporting exception in Europe, just as there is a cultural exception. I am in favour of the freedom of movement of individuals and goods, but I do not accept the idea that we should make our football clubs pay, undermining the investment that many clubs make in teenage boys, who need to stay with the club for training purposes. A sporting exception, which would mean that sport is not beholden to the market economy, should have the support of all MEPs. To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, Mr President, I would like to finish – apologies for having been too long, no doubt – with a final observation. I know where I am going to make this observation: where the heart of European democracy beats. Europe has suffered a great deal. It has suffered first of all from the cowardice of some of us, who were very happy to let Europe pay for responsibilities which were really those of political leaders, unwilling to make in public the choices that they refused to defend in Brussels. That is cowardice. I say this to the President of the European Parliament and to the President of the Commission: the Presidency will work hand in hand with you. If any Member State does not agree, let it speak up. As I said to the Polish President, he himself negotiated the Lisbon Treaty, he gave his word, and one’s word has to be honoured. It is not a question of politics, but a question of morals. However, Europe has suffered from something else too. Europe has suffered from a lack of debate. I would like to end with this because it is very important to me. Our institutions are independent, but independence does not mean indifference. If we, the political leaders, do not have the courage to debate, who will? To debate what? What is the right economic strategy? What is the right monetary strategy? What is the right exchange rate strategy? What is the right interest rate strategy? Of course everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and I say this to our German friends in particular. However, no one has the right to prevent a debate, a constructive debate. Of course everyone wants an agreement, such as the trade agreement which is in the process of being negotiated. However, no one must be afraid of saying that Europe must not be naive. We have to discuss the advantages of free trade, but we must also tell emerging countries that there are no grounds for them to demand the same rights without taking on the same obligations. We must not be afraid to hold a European debate. We must engage in a dignified European debate, but we must not be afraid to defend our beliefs. We are not questioning the ECB’s independence when we ask whether it is reasonable to raise interest rates to 4.25% when US interest rates are at 2%. We are having a debate. A peaceful debate, where no one has a monopoly on the truth. I certainly do not, nor do the experts, who have to demonstrate the effectiveness of their decisions. It is in this spirit, ladies and gentlemen, that I intend, together with French ministers, to shoulder this responsibility. I know that it is difficult. I know that, when you are President-in-Office of the Council, you are not defending the interests of your country, but the interests of the Union. I know, Mr President, Presidents, that we have to work as a team in the interests of the Europe of 27, and I hope that in six months’ time everyone will be able to say: ‘Europe has made progress thanks to your participation and support.’ Before the elections, I offered the French people parliamentary ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Before the elections, I said that I would not hold a referendum in France. I said this to the people of France in a democratic spirit; it was a choice I made three days before I was elected, which could have been highly significant. I do not regret that choice. I truly believe that institutional issues, the way in which we do things in Europe, are something for members of parliament rather than for referendums. It is a political choice that I am making and it is a political choice that I made in my own country before the elections. Therefore, it is perfectly democratic. We now have the problem of the Irish ‘no’ vote. It is certainly not for a Frenchman to pass judgment on this outcome considering the earlier Dutch and French ‘no’ votes. Therefore, on 21 July, for the first time as President-in-Office of the Council, I will go to Ireland to listen, engage in dialogue and try to find solutions. The French Presidency will propose a method and, I hope, a solution in agreement with the Irish Government, either in October or December. The problem is this: we must avoid both rushing our Irish friends and yet at the same time establish under what conditions and with what treaty we are going to organise the 2009 European elections. We therefore have a bit of time, but not that much. We owe it to our fellow citizens to know on what basis we are going to organise the European elections. The basis will be either the Lisbon Treaty or the Nice Treaty. There will not be a new institutional conference. There will not be a new treaty. It is either Lisbon or Nice."@en1
"(Off-mike comment from Mr Cohn-Bendit: ‘not yet’)."1
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