Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2012-01-17-Speech-2-020-000"
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"Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank you for this overwhelming result. Before the election, for most of you, I was simply the chair of another group in the House. I am honoured by the trust you have shown in me today nonetheless. I will do everything in my power not to betray that trust and to give Parliament a strong voice. For the first time since its foundation, however, there is a realistic prospect that the European Union could fail. For months now, the Union has been lunging from one crisis summit to the next. Again and again, decision after decision that affects us all, everyone of us here in this Chamber, every individual citizen, is being taken by the Heads of State or Government behind closed doors. I see this as a regression to a period in European politics that was believed to be long gone: it reminds me more of the Congress of Vienna in the 19th century. The principle followed at that time was the ruthless pursuit of national interests without any democratic controls. In contrast, post-war Europe is founded on the sober recognition that our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours; it is based on the recognition that the EU is not a zero sum game in which one side must lose in order for the other side to win. On the contrary: either we all lose – or we all win. The fundamental rule here is the Community method. This is not some technical term. The Community method lies at the heart of the European Union. What does it mean, in specific terms? Specifically, it means resolving conflict through dialogue and consensus. It means replacing the right of the strongest powers with solidarity and democracy. It also means balancing interests between small, medium-sized and large states, between North and South, between East and West, and, above all, placing the common good over particular individual interests. That is what European integration is all about. This has been evident in the successful work carried out here over many decades. This community project has sustained some serious damage, however. Over the last two years, there has not only been a change in how the problems are viewed, but also in the way in which the problems are dealt with. After all, summit meetings and the fixation on meetings between Heads of State or Government largely exclude the single directly elected body in the Community, the European Parliament, from the decision-making processes. In essence, the role of our colleagues in the national parliaments is also downgraded to simply rubber-stamping decisions handed down from on high. As a rule, all they can do is endorse the government decisions made behind closed doors in Brussels. The result of a policy that has not been adequately legitimised by Parliament is viewed by the public as a diktat from Brussels. This leads to a situation in which the EU as a whole pays the price. By following this model, we are ourselves guilty of creating a breeding ground for anti-European resentment. It is my hope that the European Parliament will not stand idly by and let that happen. I am throwing down the gauntlet to anyone who believes that we can have more Europe with less parliamentarianism, and I hope that you will join me in this. The intergovernmental agreement on a new fiscal union has been a first test case. During the negotiations, the representatives of Parliament, Mr Verhofstadt, Mr Brok, Mr Gualtieri and Mr Cohn-Bendit, found that Parliament’s call to combine budgetary discipline, on the one hand, with growth and employment, on the other, fell on deaf ears at first. Something is happening thanks to pressure from the European Parliament. My hope is that even more will happen. After all, this rational balance between budgetary discipline and growth is precisely what the public expects. That is why I want Parliament to have a place at the table at European summits. We cannot have a situation in which every institution is invited to attend, while the European Parliament is left out in the cold. My aim is to serve in the capacity of President of the Parliament in such a way that those who voted for me can be proud of their choice and so that those who did not vote for me will be pleasantly surprised. I aim to be the President for all Members of the House and I aim to defend your rights. Europe is a community of values. We demand that candidates for accession should strictly adhere to the Copenhagen criteria. I believe that the House must work to ensure that democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms are respected and applied in the Member States as a matter of course. Anyone violating the values of our Charter of Fundamental Rights can expect to meet with our resistance. As a Parliament, we all have an obligation here. In the light of current developments, allow me to add one more thought. Tomorrow, we are to have a controversial debate on the position in Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán has informed the President of Parliament that he wishes to present his view of the matter to the European Parliament tomorrow. I have consulted with the chairs of some of the groups and intend to consult with the remainder. I believe that we should do this. We should accede to Mr Orbán’s request. If the Danish Presidency agrees, he should be given an opportunity to speak tomorrow so that he can explain his view of the matter. This is precisely what I have in mind: the European Parliament must be the forum for controversial debate on the situation within Europe. That is why I believe it is a good idea for Prime Minister Orbán to visit tomorrow. I also believe it would be a good thing if the results that the Commission outlines here were debated by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in such a way that Hungary’s opposition and civil groups would also have a chance to speak. It is doubtless a step in the right direction that at least one Head of State or Government in the EU shares our opinion. The European Parliament is the right forum for controversy in relation to European policy. I believe that my task as President of Parliament, the head of one of the three central bodies of the EU, is to take a stand against the continuing trend towards summit meetings and the return to national self-interest. I want to play my part in making Parliament more visible and more vocal as a forum for democracy and controversial debate on the direction of policy within the EU. We need to give more weight to our words. It will be particularly important that we negotiate with the European Council as equals: Parliament has been given enormous additional responsibilities in many areas, whether in regard to the financial perspective, the reform of agriculture, fisheries and regional policy, the combating of climate change, legislation in relation to the financial markets, justice, internal policy and trade policy. The Treaty of Lisbon has been in place for two years now and we, as public representatives, have only scratched the surface of what can be achieved through this accord. Our common goal must be to exercise our powers – even in the face of conflict if necessary. If Parliament is to become more visible, then critical debate is essential, for example, in relation to the first-reading agreements. You might say Parliament strikes back. We also need to discuss our own work. However, all of this can only work if we put our own house in order first. With the help of our administrators, I intend to ensure that the parliamentary institutions and all Members of the House enjoy the conditions that will enable them to fulfil our legislative functions here as effectively as possible. I do not intend to be a comfortable President. I will be a President who will demand that the executive respect Parliament, and who will dig his heels in if the interests of our citizens are under threat. I want to be a President who represents a strong Parliament whose Members are dedicated to the concerns of their constituents. A President who will do everything he can to restore people’s dented confidence in the European unification process. I am going to try to reawaken people’s enthusiasm for Europe. Many people have risked everything and too many people have sacrificed their lives to achieve parliamentary rights and parliamentarianism. The first freely elected President of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, Mustapha Ben Jafar, together with his colleagues, who are gaining their first experience of the parliamentary process, take the parliaments of Europe, in particular, the European Parliament, as their model. In Libya, where a despot waged war on his own people, the EU was the first to open an embassy, offering hope to the people there in a difficult situation. When the Sakharov Prize was awarded a few weeks ago, a courageous young blogger and heroic opponent of Gaddafi touched our hearts with her fascination with Europe’s values. In the Middle East, we are constantly asked how Europe has succeeded in turning enemies into allies and how we have managed to grow together into this single Europe, despite our national, religious and philosophical differences. The further you move away from Europe, the better the opinions expressed about it. Let us all work together to recover this enthusiasm for European unification in Europe. Europe is a fascinating idea – an idea that has grown as a response from the second half of the 20th century to the events of the first half of the same century. How could we describe the first half of the 20th century? Hatred, superpower politics, incitement against others, contempt for humanity, the trenches of the First World War, Stalin’s gulags and the gas chambers of Auschwitz were the lowest points in the history of civilisation. In the second half of the 20th century, European unification and the joint institutions within Europe brought the longest period of peace and prosperity in Europe’s history. The Iron Curtain was torn down in 1989. Germany was reunited. In 2004 and 2007, former Member States of the Warsaw Pact joined the EU, restoring the cultural and political unity of a continent that had been artificially divided for 40 years. What a success story this has been. Why have we forgotten to take pride in what we have achieved? Why do we allow people to bad-mouth these unique historical achievements? My grandfather fought in the First World War. Twenty years later, my father went to war again when the criminal Hitler regime sent the whole world up in flames. I grew up in a small town near the borders between three countries, where people had to stand in long queues in order to be allowed to cross the border to visit their neighbours in Belgium and the Netherlands. We have put an end to war and starvation. We have opened the borders. We have outlawed racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Today, we live in a free and open Europe, a Europe that can be proud of its cultural diversity. Let us now arm Europe for the 21st century, so that it will also be a promise of economic strength, social justice and a free and democratic European homeland for the younger generation, for our children and grandchildren. It is up to all of us to do this together. I would first like to thank Mr Buzek. You were the first President of an EU institution to come from the freedom movements of Eastern Europe and your election and term in office symbolised the victory and triumph of democracy over dictatorship. The dignity with which you have represented this House has demonstrated the unity of Europe in an unparalleled way. I would like to thank you warmly for that, Jerzy Buzek. I take up this office today with humility. Europe is going through stormy times. These are hard times for many people in Europe. My parents came from a generation whose mantra was: ‘we want our children to have a better life than we have had’. We do indeed have a better life. We no longer have any certainty, however, that life will be as good for our children as it has been for us. Poverty is rife in many countries as a consequence of the economic crisis, and unemployment has reached dramatic proportions among young people in particular. These young people are now protesting on the streets of Europe against an economic system in which a small number of people are making fat profits, while the burden of the losses is being shared out among the public at large, a system in which it seems, particularly in recent days, that anonymous rating agencies in New York are more powerful than democratically elected parliaments and governments. We need to say a decisive ‘No’ to this. After all, this leads to a crisis of confidence in the institutions, in politics and in the national and European institutions. This crisis of confidence also threatens people’s belief in the European project. Many people watch us with anger as we go about our work. They are not convinced that what we are doing is right. We must be aware that people in Europe are less interested in institutional debate than in their jobs, their pensions and social justice. They are concerned about healthy food and a clean environment – we in this House must make every effort to listen closely to these people and to pay them greater attention. After all, this is the forum where the interests of Europe’s people are represented. This is where we, the representatives of the people of Europe, preside. That is why I say that the people of Europe, who expressed their confidence in us in direct elections, rightly expect us to uphold their interests. I am proudly aware that all of my colleagues in this House see themselves as advocates for their constituents. I would like to thank you all for that."@en1
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