German Social Democrat Martin Schulz was elected president of the European Parliament in the first ballot Tuesday with 387 votes, a position he will hold until the elections in 2014. In his acceptance speech, he noted that in these times of crisis "our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours. Either we all lose, or we all win". Click below for his complete speech.
"These are turbulent times in the history of Europe. For many people...they are hard times. As a result of the economic crisis, in many countries poverty is on the increase and unemployment has reached disastrous levels," he said. This is however not just an economic crisis, but something more profound, a "crisis of confidence in politics and its institutions (that) is also undermining faith in the European integration process".
"For the first time since it was founded, the failure of the EU is a realistic possibility," Schulz said, a situation compounded by the apparent lack of parliamentary and, hence, democratic legitimacy of the decisions taken. "The price is being paid by the EU as a whole, since this dissatisfaction with politics acts as a breeding ground for anti-European sentiment."
For Mr Schulz only a profoundly democratic Union can provide the answer. "Post-war Europe is founded on a sober acknowledgement of the fact that our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours: either we all lose – or we all win."
Speaking about the intergovernmental agreement prepared to strengthen budgetary discipline among euro zone countries, he underlined the necessity for parliamentary scrutiny as a prerequisite for democratic legitimacy. "The public are responding to this lack of parliamentary legitimacy by viewing political decisions taken by their leaders as nothing more than a series of diktats from Brussels...The European Parliament will not stand idly by and watch this process continue," he warned, challenging "anyone who claims that more Europe can be achieved with less parliamentarianism".
"I will not be an amenable President," he said, but "a President who will do everything in his power to win back lost public trust in the European integration process and restore public enthusiasm for Europe".
The EP "is the place where the interests of the people are defended. The Members who sit in this Chamber are the representatives of ordinary Europeans. And so I say this: the people who elected us are looking to us to put their side of the argument". "I know that all the Members of this House see themselves as the advocates of ordinary people. I am proud of that fact and I thank you all for your commitment to the citizens of Europe".
"My overwhelming emotion is humility" he told MEPs. "I intend to carry out the office of President of the European Parliament in such a way that those who voted for me today can take pride in having done so, and those who did not vote for me today are pleasantly surprised"…
Read the full text of President Schulz's speech by clicking in the link on the right.