"As regards the issue of the Irish border, Ireland’s problems are the Union’s problems"
Speech by EP President Antonio Tajani at the European Council Meeting
Extracts from the speech (check against delivery):
I should like to congratulate the negotiator, Michel Barnier, on the excellent work he has done and express Parliament’s satisfaction at the unity we have shown.
In the resolution we adopted yesterday, Parliament noted the fact that sufficient progress has been made for the negotiations to move on to the second phase. Now we need to be vigilant for the next steps.
In the light of the statements made on the other side of the Channel last weekend, we want to underline that the joint report is a binding document, not an exercise in sleight of hand to enable us to move on to the second phase. There can be no discussions on future relations if the exit agreement is not applied to the letter.
The fact that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made does not mean that we have resolved all the problems. We still have a lot of work to do. Parliament will pay particularly close attention to the measures proposed to genuinely safeguard the rights of citizens and to the procedure which will be introduced to guarantee their special status.
I am also delighted that the British Government has agreed to honour its financial commitments. I never doubted that it would. As regards the issue of the Irish border, Ireland’s problems are the Union’s problems.
The United Kingdom must shed all ambiguity: the specific solution agreed for this border must not become a back door into the internal market.
As regards future relations with the United Kingdom, there are red lines which are non-negotiable: integrity of the internal market, decision-making autonomy of the Union, and third-country status, with all that that implies. In this difficult second phase as well, unity will be our shield.
We will play our part in drafting the agreement on future relations which Parliament will ultimately have to approve.
We face a series of challenges on matters which our citizens regard as priorities.
Our citizens look our way to resolve the migration crisis. They no longer accept the uncontrolled flows of migrants, pilgrimages of refugees hopping from country to country in search of asylum, mass deaths in the desert or at sea, or the appalling spectacle of markets where people are sold as slaves.
Parliament has approved an overhaul of the Dublin system by a wide majority, with streamlined and efficient rules for more solidarity. Now it is up to the Council to do its part, as quickly as possible. Although we can appreciate efforts for a broad consensus on such a sensitive topic, it is not right to insist on unanimity at all costs in cases where the Treaties provide for co-decision by qualified majority. This risks not only to postpone a decision of fundamental importance to EU citizens, but also to deprive the Parliament of its powers as co-legislator. As President of the European Parliament, it is my duty to safeguard its prerogatives.
The problem of migration must be tackled at its root. We must offer young Africans real prospects, otherwise they will leave not in their thousands, but in their millions. The EUR 3.4 billion investment plan for Africa, which we approved in July, is an important step in the right direction. But much greater efforts are needed. In Abidjan, I proposed that as from the next budget at least EUR 40 billion should be set aside for the investment fund.
Security and defence
According to the findings of the Eurobarometer survey, EU citizens want a Union which takes more effective action in the areas of security and defence. We cannot continue to rely on the military might of others.
Twenty-five Member States have just taken an historic step forward by introducing arrangements for permanent military cooperation. Common procurement procedures and common standards will enhance our ability to launch joint security operations.
We should follow the example of our space policy where European systems, such as EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus, have helped to make us more competitive. Drawing on that example, the next budget must set aside the funds needed for proper investment in security and defence.