by Mrs Nicole FONTAINE,
President of the European Parliament,
to the opening session of the Laeken European Council
14 December 2001
As you know, on 15 January 2002 the European Parliament will elect its new President for the second half of its parliamentary term. This changeover gives each of our fifteen Member States, however large or small its population, a greater chance of seeing one of its citizens elected to the most senior office within Parliament.
This is, therefore, the last time that I shall have the honour of speaking to you in my current capacity.
I should like to start by saying how much I have appreciated the welcome you have always extended to me, whether at the quarterly European Council meetings, during the visits I have made to the various Union countries, or in the course of the many other dealings we have had with each other.
My thanks go in particular to the five Union Presidencies which have coincided with my term of office: Finland, Portugal, France, Sweden and, today, Belgium. You have shown your respect for and listened to the views of the European Parliament, through the person of its President, and I thank you on its behalf.