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Debaty
Środa, 15 listopada 2017 r. - Strasburg Wersja poprawiona

9. Uroczyste posiedzenie - Słowacja
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  President. – President Kiska, it is a pleasure to have you here in the European Parliament today. The European Parliament is the heart of our democracy. Your speech is important for us, to have your ideas, your proposals. We are in the middle of the debate on the future of the European Union. To have the leaders in this Parliament is important because we want to have very good debates, very good meetings with European leaders. I want to thank you once again for your visit here, and I now give you the floor.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Andrej Kiska, President of the Slovak Republic. – Mr President, it was a great honour to accept the invitation to speak to this distinguished European auditorium. There is not a more representative place where any European politician could express his views on the future of our European project.

Even the timing of my address here could hardly be better. In two days, Slovakia will celebrate the day when we made our first steps to democracy. It all began with young people, with students whose courage to stand up against the regime had opened the door to the Velvet Revolution. Twenty-eight years ago we went into the streets and we called for freedom, human rights and democratic institutions. We forced the Communist regime to dissolve, after four decades.

When I try to comprehend what we have achieved since 17 November 1989, I almost cannot believe how far we have managed to get. I stand here as the president of a proud, free and democratic country – a member of the European Union – whose citizens can travel freely across the continent and use the same currency as countries from the opposite side of the inglorious Iron Curtain.

None of it would be possible without the attractive power of peace and prosperity of the European project. We have succeeded because we had a vital vision to become a part of the West, and because we were granted the opportunity to fulfil this dream through the European Union. Indeed, the success story of Slovakia is a success story of European integration.

(Applause)

The timing of my speech here might be a lucky chance, but it is no coincidence that I have decided to begin my remarks with the success story of European integration in the part of Europe I am coming from. Because in the middle of the overwhelming pessimism of the past few years, it seems almost out of place to talk about success. And yet, I am convinced that these doubts about the ability of the EU to cope with common challenges, to overcome present difficulties, are greatly exaggerated. Make no mistake, this does not make them less dangerous. They are in our heads, they influence sentiment in our societies, they tamper with our electoral decisions. In the end, they even drive our political and policy actions.

So I am not here to downplay the dangers of populism, nationalism and extremism fuelled by dissatisfaction in our societies and amplified by professionally-orchestrated propaganda. I am not here to underestimate the consequences of Brexit, or the real challenges we need to address in the monetary union, border protection or elsewhere. But I am here to forcefully reject the idea that there are some fundamental flaws in the architecture of the EU that will lead us to a bleak future. That something is rotten in the European project and it has been somehow responsible for the recent rise of extremism and nationalism. I am here to refuse the popular game of ‘blame it on Brussels’ whenever it serves to cover some pressing domestic political issue.

(Applause)

Let me point out where I do see a weakness in upholding the EU project. There is no doubt we defend the right cause – the project of peace, prosperity and human dignity. Facts speak volumes about the success of European integration. Of course, anti-European populists and extremists cannot beat us in providing solutions to improve the lives of our citizens. But too often it looks like they beat us with their limitless confidence and passion for their case. We need real, stronger leadership, more confidence and devotion when acting and speaking up on behalf of the EU.

We are aware of this problem in Slovakia. A month ago we adopted a joint declaration of the President, the Speaker of the Parliament and the Prime Minister, which strongly and decisively reinforces our membership in the EU as a strategic interest without any alternative for the future of our country. We have agreed that we will communicate with our public responsibly. That we will not use double language abroad and at home about EU decisions.

(Applause)

I consider this point especially important. We can see how often the EU is misused in political campaigns, and how well it serves populists to present all victories as national, and all defeats as European. We cannot get trapped by images of doom portrayed by those who would like to see us in another crisis. The EU is not a sinking ship and we do not have to radically reform the way we operate. The most pressing issues can be solved by finishing what we have begun years ago. This is valid for the euro zone, Schengen or the single market.

Not all of our past decisions were picture perfect and it will take some fine-tuning to overcome the challenges we face. But we do not need revolution. We just have to focus on what the EU Members have mastered during 60 years of integration – solving the issues together, helping each other and learning from each other.

Solidarity and mutual trust are crucial to our success and our strength to overcome whatever comes next. But the recent migration crisis unfortunately left wounds on our mutual trust. And it will take time and effort to eventually heal these wounds. So let me today just say something that I used to repeat again and again during our heated domestic discussions. It is our moral duty to help children, women and men who flee their homes to save their lives, and Slovakia should never hesitate to show solidarity to our friends and partners in the EU.

(Applause)

Slovakia openly pursues its strategic interest to be at the core of European integration, but I think we should focus on substance, on achieving convincing results, and not lose too much energy in debates on a core or so-called multi-speed Europe. This discussion is not new. Only players and contexts differ.

There has always been and there always will be EU countries willing to do more than others at some point in time. To explore more areas of cooperation is certainly not against the unity of the EU when agreed rules are respected, but it is crucial that new initiatives are open to anyone interested. And I know for sure that Slovakia will not look for back seats when new projects are on the table.

While we invest our effort in the consolidation of our internal affairs, we shall not forget the role of the EU beyond its borders. Because there are many threats out there with a significant impact on our common future, security and well-being.

The EU today is an economic superpower, but its voice in the security challenges around us is quite limited, whether it is dealing with Russia over the illegal annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in Donbas, or the situation in Syria and Libya. But the EU was built to be the project of peaceful economic integration, not a common military powerhouse. It always feels a bit cheap to criticise perceived lack of geopolitical prestige or a lack of operational capability during sudden crises, if one is not willing to equip the EU with proper abilities and powers. Or if one is not ready to respect common actions when they matter the most.

We in Slovakia are in favour of a more ambitious foreign and security policy of the EU. I do not think it is sustainable to limit the EU to the role of a money-raising benefactor after the dust settles, a benefactor trying to rebuild what has been left or destroyed by interventions of unscrupulous players on the international scene. Looking at the world today, it must be clear that the EU needs to transform itself into a more powerful global player.

But I suggest we address this task rather honestly. No common policy can be efficient if it is pushed aside any time someone deems it convenient. I am content that we have abandoned the idea of some European army as a starting point, because we need first to agree on what it really means to strengthen our cooperation in this field.

Also, let me be clear: in Slovakia, we have never seen this initiative as an attempt to compete with the defence guarantees provided by NATO and a strategic partnership with the United States. But we see lot of room where enhanced European cooperation can fill in and play a crucial role. Without merging our resources together, we would never be able to stand up to our ambitions. That is why Slovakia welcomes the idea of ‘permanent structured cooperation’.

While speaking about security, let me add one remark. I am following an ongoing investigation in the United States about the scope of Russian interference in their presidential elections. Then I look back home where I can hardly see any action at all. And I always tell myself how lucky we are to live in Europe where, apparently, no Russian influence is felt, as none is being intensively investigated ...

But, on a more serious note, while we start talking about the European defence projects, we should act together against the imminent and dangerous threat we all face – the Russian propaganda and information war. It would be ridiculous to work on our defence hardware but leave this vulnerability open to attacks. Honestly, it would be shame to let the European project fail because of our inability to halt the dissemination of hoaxes and fake news ...

(Applause)

... because propaganda has real consequences in our everyday lives. It shaped the moods in the EU and influences attitudes of our citizens. It seeks to spread chaos, to weaken our stability, to undermine the trust of people in our institutions, and to make us afraid of every upcoming election.

One of the biggest threats comes from inside. We need to look into organised financial and personal schemes linked to media, non-governmental organisations, business entities or political parties. It is no secret that people in our countries get hired and used to destabilise our societies. In many cases, we simply ignore it or feel it inappropriate to take action. But Russia becomes more bold in its efforts to destabilise Europe and it is ready to use any situation to this end.

I really appreciate that this Parliament approved a resolution on Russian propaganda last year. It was a bold and much needed first step. It is clear the problem should be dealt with the utmost political and expert attention at the European level and it should lead to active defence. We shall not tolerate disinformation interfering with our strategic interests. We must defend ourselves, in words and in deeds.

I have mentioned the post-Communist journey of my own country as proof of the success of European integration, and I will go even further and say that enlargement itself has been the most successful EU policy since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

(Applause)

It has been the most important contribution of European politicians of the past three decades to keep the continent peaceful, free and prosperous.

I have no doubt that our common future will be determined greatly by our capability to accept new members, by our ability to secure the stability and prosperity of our neighbourhood. No matter how serious our internal challenges seem to be right now, we must not give up on enlargement.

The fate of the Western Balkan countries must remain one of our priorities. Yes, there are reasons to be disappointed by the lack of progress in reforms, in overcoming old divisions, but rather than relax our attention, the EU should engage more. We have horrific experience of what could happen if the Western Balkans stay at the margin of our attention. The security and stability of the region is closely intertwined with the security and stability of the EU, so we cannot afford to give up on them. That means we cannot kill the vision of successful integration for them.

A failure to offer hope is empowering adversaries of a prosperous, peaceful and integrated Europe. We simply cannot lose our friends in our neighbourhood, especially in the Eastern Neighbourhood. In this situation it is ridiculous to spend months in discussions on how to avoid any reference to a membership vision, instead of focusing on what we can offer them.

Let me be more specific. Moldova is one of the poorest parts of Europe. People there desperately long for better lives that can be achieved through reforms and a realistic vision of a better future, something that the EU can offer the best. Without our help, they will be left vulnerable to the Kremlin’s interference.

Georgia, a country that has been doing its best for well over a decade; our true ally in the region. But also a country that suffers from a recent war with Russia. A big part of its territory is still illegally occupied and people are left suffering. I touched the barbed-wire fence that can divide your garden overnight and leave you with no access to your family. And yet, Georgia has not lost its strategic direction towards the West. So let’s not put this bond at risk by our ignorance and indifference that could lead to irreparable damage.

And finally, Ukraine, our biggest neighbour, is fighting its war for a territorial integrity while carrying out reforms at the same time. I often hear they do not do enough. But they will not do better if we lose our interest, cut off our support and leave them on their own. Moreover, if we get back to business as usual with Putin’s regime, if we lift the sanctions without forcing the Kremlin to respect international law and principles, then we are willing to trade our own long-term security and stability for dubious individual short-term profits and interests.

European integration embodies everything that is dear to us – life in peace, life in dignity where every human being is respected. It is our common heritage; our precious and verified plan to survive, our only meaningful path to the future. I am sure the European Union has many great years ahead.

(The House accorded the speaker a standing ovation)

 
  
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  President. – President Kiska, thank you very much for your speech. The debate on the future of the European Union is open. Thank you for your contribution.

 
  
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   Onorevole Batten, prego.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (EFDD). – Mr President, on a point of order under Rule 22, and in particular Rules 5(4) and 38 regarding the rights and freedoms of MEPs and our rights to information, on Wednesday, 8 November I was one of a small group of UK MEPs asked to meet the UK House of Commons EU Exiting Committee. We were going to have a short meeting, but that was cut even shorter when Mr Guy Verhofstadt refused to enter the room until the other UK MEPs had left. Mr Hilary Benn, the Chair of the committee, reluctantly had to ask us to leave.

The behaviour of Mr Verhofstadt contravened the rules I quoted, and was deliberately obstructing an exchange of views between MEPs and UK MPs. I am going to write to you separately, but I would like to ask you to take steps to have Mr Verhofstadt removed as the Parliament representative in the Brexit negotiations and replaced by somebody impartial.

(Applause from certain quarters)

 
  
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  President. – (responding to an interruption from the floor) We have Mr Corbett first and then you. OK? Silence, please.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (S&D). – Mr President, with respect, what we have just heard is totally inaccurate. The House of Commons Committee on Brexit was indeed in the European Parliament and conducted a series of meetings with British Members from the different parties, with Mr Verhofstadt and the Brexit team, and with others. They did not, indeed, allow participants in one meeting to stay on to listen to what happened in the next of their meetings. That is perfectly reasonable and normal. To complain that he, Mr Batten, could not stay on for the next one of their meetings is distorting what was actually at stake. What happened was perfectly normal, proper practice and decided by the House of Commons – which they pretend to respect the sovereignty of – and yet they clearly have no respect whatsoever for the workings of the House of Commons.

 
  
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  David Coburn (EFDD). – Mr President, Governor Jerry Brown came here and gave us an interesting talk. We all made our contributions, I made mine, and I was looking forward to seeing it on the Parliament’s TV thing. Sadly, I was excluded, as was Mr Peter Lundgren, and Mr Steven Woolfe was also excluded.

It gave rather the impression that the entire Parliament favoured the CO2 method of global warming. That really is not the case, and it makes it look as if Parliament is being managed. I know you sir, and one of the reasons I voted for you – and I think you are a good man – is that you promised to protect minority views, and I know that you do. Perhaps you have not seen this, but it is bad if they put out propaganda that does not look as if it represents all the views. I would like to bring that to your attention.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Jacqueline Foster (ECR). – Mr President, just a point of clarification, if I may: I was present at the meeting when the House of Commons committee came to talk to us. Our colleague across the Chamber is not correct, because the chairman of that committee – Hilary Benn – was quite relaxed about the MEPs who were present, who we had had a brief discussion before with, about them remaining in the meeting with Mr Verhofstadt. That is just a point of clarification. The House of Commons committee, led by Hilary Benn, were quite happy for the MEPs, including the British ones, to be present at the next meeting. It was Mr Verhofstadt – it is obviously his choice – who had decided or determined that the MEPs should not remain. I will leave you with that thought.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Presidente. – Passiamo alle votazioni. Non dobbiamo fare un dibattito su quello che è accaduto. Ho capito qual è il problema.

Onorevole Collins, è per un altro problema?

 
  
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  Jane Collins (EFDD). – Mr President, this is a point of order under Rule 38. I have learned that Mr Barnier met with the GUE/NGL Group yesterday to discuss Brexit. He has made no effort at all to speak with the EFDD as a group. You know that Verhofstadt has excluded all eurosceptic groups from the Brexit Steering Committee. Please instruct them to include all MEPs in their discussions. If we do not have the information, we cannot express an opinion, and then that is a restriction of our rights.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Presidente. – Ho capito benissimo, onorevole Collins. Non apriamo un dibattito sulla questione. L'on. Verhofstadt ha la mia piena fiducia e la fiducia della stragrande maggioranza del Parlamento. Si può essere d'accordo o meno su quello che dice, ma ha la fiducia della stragrande maggioranza del Parlamento.

Onorevoli colleghi, sia molto chiaro. Io ho sempre rispettato tutte le opinioni che si esprimono in questo Parlamento, però non tollero che questa Aula si trasformi in un circo. Quindi non tollero né boati né atteggiamenti aggressivi, è chiaro?

 
  
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  Jo Leinen (S&D). – Mr President, from Brexit to more pleasant developments, we have on the tribune a delegation from the National People’s Congress from China, and, after a break of one and a half years, we are pleased to have again an interparliamentary meeting. A lot of changes in China and Europe that we will discuss this afternoon and tomorrow morning, and I think we should give the colleagues a very warm welcome.

(Applause)

 
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