Speech by Jerzy Buzek President of the European Parliament to the Extraordinary session of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union of the German Bundestag
Dear Members of the Bundestag,
Dear Colleagues from the European Parliament,
It is a great honour for me to be in this building which stands at the former border of a once divided nation. I am always moved by the white crosses at the banks of the river Spree which we can see from these windows. The changes that happened in 1989 did not happen soon enough to save those victims of a darker time. I think your parliament is the first parliament to bridge an old frontier. In Europe, we can never forget our history.
Before we start our debate, I would like to raise three issues by way of introduction.
My first comment is that I would like to assure you that the European Parliament is in agreement with the German Bundestag on Economic Governance. We strongly support the strengthening of economic governance - both in terms of sustainability and surveillance of economic imbalances.
We believe that decisions in economic governance should be done by reverse Qualified Majority Voting. We believe that sanctions should be triggered if a Member State - even with a deficit below 3% - deviates from the 0.5 % adjustment path requirement in the Stability and Growth Pact. The main rule should be prevention.
The Parliament supports the proposal that an annual debt reduction for Member States exceeding 60 % of GDP - should be part of the excessive deficit procedure. We also strongly support the "European Semester for better economic policy coordination". This should be reflected in the legal framework. We need more transparency and dialogue among all decision-makers in the Union - including the national parliaments.
With a common currency we need to understand what are the implications for national fiscal policies. And implement these policies accordingly.
It is now clear that all of our economies have to change. We have to tell our citizens the truth that we all have to work longer, save more and retire later, no matter where we are in Europe. Germany has shown the way in this by increasing your retirement age to 67 by 2025.
For many though this will be painful. I know. I personally undertook four difficult reforms as Prime Minister of Poland. My decisions led to 100 000 miners being laid off. In my region. But it was the right thing to do. Poland is today a stable economy. And the mining industry was saved.
We believe in responsibility. But we also believe there has to be solidarity among Member States - because this is what the EU is about. We need to help countries in the EU make the right decisions.
Let us also be honest with each other - we are so linked that we are not bailing out Greek banks, but German banks in Greece! Your banks own 21.8% of the sovereign debt. Showing solidarity to Greece in this case is also self-interest.
My second point is that we must never forget that the Euro is a common good. And that Germany is the country which has contributed and benefited the most from this common good. You are our export champion - 98.3 billion Euro in March alone! And for the first time in history probably more than 1 trillion Euro by the end of the year. Your economy has grown even more because of the single currency. 41% of your exports are to the Eurozone.
In the EU we always had a deal - at first it was agriculture versus open borders for German industry. Today it was the completion of the single market versus structural funds.
But it has always been in Germany's interest to make sure poorer regions become more developed. It is a win-win situation which we sometimes forget. But I agree that transfers can not be automatic and spending should be intelligent. We do not want or need a new Länder-finanz-ausgleich...
My third point relates to the annual budget of the Union and the upcoming negotiations on the Multi-annual Financial Framework. We can not forget that there is "European Added Value".
I often use the example of last year's investments in the energy sector by the European Commission. The 4 billion Euros invested leveraged 22 billion Euros of spending. One Euro from the EU budget can be worth up to 5 Euros spent nationally. And 94% of the EU funds come back as investment.
Because of economies of scale, there are projects - such as infrastructure, energy grids, pipelines - but also joint research - which should be done on the EU level. The same can apply for security, defence and today even parts of our foreign service. How much a national government can save if we had, for example, a common consular service? Do we really need 27 consulates in nearly every country around the world?
We have our EU 2020 Strategy which we all agreed to. Now it is time to implement it. We also have to close the gaps and bottle necks which exist in the single market. This will increase growth, reduce unemployment and help to re-launch our economies. The MFF has to contribute to achieve these goals.
But our negotiation process should not be driven by random percentage targets as proposed in the "letter of five". The process has to be driven by the EU's political priorities.
The EU can also not be compared to a savings bank, where you receive a percentage rate on your “investments”. We have to get away from this idea of net-balances. This is why we should explore ways to introduce new own-resources to finance the EU - to replace national contributions in the long run.
I started off by saying that we can never forget our past. We should never forget that Europe has also been our success story for almost 60 years. Today we need more and not less Europe. Because only by working together, as we always have, will we keep making this our success story.
- Charlotte Du RietzMobile: +32 498 98 13 66