Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2009-01-14-Speech-3-077"

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"Madam President, this has been a very interesting discussion, and I am encouraged by the common understanding of the challenges and generally speaking by the support given to the Czech presidency. Once again I reiterate my wish to work loyally, constructively and in the best spirit, with our Czech friends. Their success is also Europe’s success. Many of you spoke about the Czech presidency and how important it is. As some of you said – Mr Nassauer, Mr Brok and others – the very fact that we have a Czech presidency is in itself an event of great importance. It is the first time a former Warsaw Pact country has assumed the responsibility of chairing the European Council. When you think about it, what a great achievement it is, 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, to have the Czech Republic at the head of the European Council, and to have Prime Minister Topolánek and Vice-Prime Minister Vondra cooperating in this responsibility. I have full confidence in what you are going to do. Let me share with you an experience I had last year during the Portuguese presidency. Prime Minister Socrates of Portugal and I were in Zittau, on the border between the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany, and I saw the emotion Prime Minister Topolánek was feeling at that moment. That border, which once separated us in Europe, between the two sides of Europe, is now a free point of circulation among Europeans from all those countries. It was a great moment and a great achievement, of which we should be proud. That is why I really believe that it is important to defend our values to make a success of this presidency. Some of you said it is important that the Czech Republic be successful, because it is a small country. I am sorry but the Czech Republic is not a small country, even in European terms. In fact, it is sometimes a sign of an inferiority complex to consider some of our Member States as small countries. Let me tell you that – as Paul-Henri Spaak, one of the founders of our European project, said – in the European Union there are no longer small and big countries; if you like, none of them is big: the problem is that some of them have not yet noticed it. In fact, when we look at the rest of the world – when we see the dimension of America’s strength in terms of defence and in technology; when we see the huge geographical dimension of Russia; when we see the huge demographic dimension of China and India – can we say that there are any big countries in Europe? There are no longer big countries in Europe. All are great in terms of dignity. For the European Commission all the Member States have exactly the same dignity, but if we want to be big in the world we need the European Union to be strong. We need to act together; we need to use the leverage of all our institutions and, if we act together like that, we will make a difference in the world for good. That is why we need the Treaty of Lisbon. That is why we need a common purpose. That is why we need strong institutions. I wish the Czech presidency all the best. As some of you have underlined, this is the last presidency before the European Parliament elections. I think it is very important that during these months we all show how relevant all our institutions are to the wellbeing, prosperity and solidarity of our citizens. It is very important to communicate, and that cannot be done only by the European institutions or only by Member States. We have to do it together in a true spirit of partnership, so a lot of what will happen during these months will be very important for the future of Europe, and also for the respect accorded to our institutions all over Europe. I would like to use this time to answer some concrete questions put to me, specifically on energy. Yes, we need an urgent revision of the Gas Security Directive. The Commission said so when it presented its strategic energy review last November, and we are working flat-out to put the legislative proposal before the European Parliament and the Council as soon as possible. Yes, we need more solidarity and more progress in terms of energy security in Europe. That was the substance of our strategic energy review presented very recently. I would like to use this time once again to ask all Member States and European institutions to work more actively on the mechanisms of European energy solidarity. Yes, we also need to accelerate investment in energy infrastructure, interconnectors and energy efficiency. That is why it is so crucial to get the EUR 5 billion of the Community budget allocated for these purposes. I appeal to you, both Parliament and the Czech presidency, to translate this into practice as soon as possible. Yes, economic recovery needs to be coupled with smart green growth if we want to come out of this crisis stronger. Our proposals are on the table to accelerate the use of Structural Funds for these purposes. Funds are needed for energy efficiency and for energy interconnections, and by the coordination of national stimulus programmes we will align national efforts in this direction as well, in line with European Council conclusions. Let me also say that getting through this economic crisis and putting Europe back on the path towards sustainable growth will also require respect for Community rules on equal opportunities. Europe needs to continue facilitating the participation of both men and women in the economy, as well as helping combine family and professional life. A word also on the Treaty of Lisbon, which many of you mentioned: we need this Treaty more than ever, ratified by all Member States. Yes, we need to respect all national ratification processes, but when a government, on behalf of a state, signs a treaty it takes a solemn commitment to put it into force."@en1

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