President. The next item is the debate on the Council and Commission statements on the preparations for the European Council to take place in Brussels on 15 and 16 June, including the next steps in the period of reflection, and on the oral question to the Commission on the next steps in the period of reflection, by Jo Leinen, on behalf of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (O-0033/2006 – B6-0208/2006).
For this purpose, Mr Winkler is here, on behalf of the Council, as is Mr Barroso, President of the Commission, accompanied by Mrs Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission.
Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DE) Mr President, Mr President of the Commission, Madam Vice-President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, in a few days’ – even hours’ – time, the Austrian Council Presidency will experience a high point in the shape of the European Council, which will give us the opportunity to address and discuss a whole range of issues to which our Presidency has been attending, and to lay down results. During the Austrian Presidency, a great many issues have been addressed, and a great many such issues and problems have been solved – very often together with you, the European Parliament.
The topics for this European Council are very diverse, and so I shall have to confine myself to a brief outline of many of them. I am not claiming to cover everything, as I naturally wish to avoid encroaching too much on the speaking time of the Members of this House.
The forthcoming Summit will be a working Summit. There are no epoch-making decisions on the agenda, but the Austrian Presidency’s harvest – where it has not already been brought in – will be just outside the barn door. The barn door is wide open, and now we want to bring the harvest in.
In recent weeks and months, the Austrian Council Presidency has started work on a dual approach to bringing Europe forward – and this also applies to the forthcoming European Council. Firstly, this has involved addressing specific issues with the aim of making progress on the ones that are closest to the people: issues relating to prosperity, economic growth, job security, internal and external security, social security, energy security and much more.
Secondly, this approach has involved reviving the continuous debate on the future of Europe. This dual approach combining specific issues with the future of Europe will also shape the agenda of the European Council. Therefore, the Council agenda will contain first and foremost a number of issues that all participants agree require European solutions. These are issues that present our societies and citizens with problems that, in a globalised world, cannot be sensibly addressed without a concerted effort from all the EU Member States and, I would add, by all the institutions of the EU.
The first large group of issues concerns the area of security, freedom and justice. All the surveys on this, including the one by the Commission – and Commission Vice-President Wallström has also said this time and again – show that the public wants more Europe, expects more from Europe, in this particular field. In the last six months, a great deal of tangible progress has been achieved in this field: I shall make only brief mention of the counter-terrorism strategy, the enlargement of the Schengen area and the conclusion of visa facilitation and readmission agreements with various third countries.
We have also invested a great deal of time and energy in a Strategy for the external dimension of Justice and Home Affairs in the last six months – including making a start on developing a security belt, as it were, around the EU – and initiated a security partnership between the EU, our neighbouring countries, Russia and the United States. This Vienna Initiative, agreed at a tripartite Summit between the EU, Russia and the USA, will also be reflected in the conclusions of the European Council.
Migration has been and remains a particularly important issue and will also be dealt with by the Council, on the basis of a number of specific cases. Time does not permit me to go into too much detail. This important issue warrants its own debate, where it would have to be examined from various points of view: not only from the point of view of the fight against illegal immigration and of judicial and police cooperation, but also from a development perspective. As the person responsible for development matters in the last six months, I can say that we have been doing considerable work on the issue of migration within the framework of the EU’s development strategy, too, and that this is an important approach that we must not forget, including in our public presentation of the problem. There is no doubt that individual measures will be of no avail in this regard: only an effective bundle of measures will help.
Everything I have mentioned up to now is of course work in progress, and so the European Council is likely to invite the parties concerned to continue the momentum of work in all these fields.
Europe should also bring greater security through its efforts to improve its emergency and crisis response capacities. Austria has been particularly committed to this in the months of its Presidency. The European Council will be presented with a report on this listing progress to date and making recommendations for further action. Former Commissioner and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has presented a very comprehensive, stimulating, forward-looking report, which will undoubtedly be examined closely by all the institutions of the EU in the coming weeks and months. It contains a number of good ideas for solving this problem to the benefit of public security.
Another very important issue that cannot be sensibly solved without pan-European solutions is sustainable development. As we know, the EU has had a strategy on this since the Gothenburg European Council in 2001, whose objective is for all decisions to reflect the responsible management of natural resources. This guideline has now been completely renewed under the Austrian Presidency and further developed into an ambitious, comprehensive new strategy for a whole range of key fields such as climate change, clean energy, transport, and emphasis on sustainable consumption and production patterns. The issue of climate change, too, is on the agenda in this context.
The issue of the Lisbon Strategy is, of course, another important topic for the European Council now to be held in Brussels. As Austrian Chancellor Schüssel also reported here, the European Council examined this strategy in detail back in March, and provided a good deal of specific guidance. Since then, success has been achieved in the form of two important milestones: the compromise on freedom to provide services, for which the Council owes Parliament a great debt of gratitude – I should like to make that absolutely clear and express my thanks to the House – and the agreement in principle on the Seventh Framework Programme. In the case of the Services Directive, the Council stayed as faithful as possible to Parliament’s compromise. This Directive is a good example of how the institutions of the EU, cooperating constructively and efficiently, can achieve tangible progress to the benefit of our citizens. The Austrian Presidency is particularly obliged to Parliament for this.
It goes without saying that the issue of energy policy will be another important topic for the European Council. This issue has been examined and discussed on a large number of occasions, including in relation to third countries – and yesterday I had the opportunity to report to this House on the Summit with the Russian Federation. As regards the discussion within the Council, the main emphasis has been on the requisite internal measures, such as improving energy efficiency and moving over to renewable sources of energy. We now need to take external measures, too, and to this end we need a common, proactive approach that is properly thought out in geostrategic terms. On the instructions of the European Council, the Commission and Council Secretary-General Javier Solana have prepared a strategy paper that will be presented to the European Council.
Another issue on which, according to surveys, the public expects more Europe is the issue of external policy, of the EU’s external relations. The majority of the European public wants the EU to play an important role on the international stage. In spite of the progress achieved in recent years – and I believe this to be considerable – the EU still does not have the weight befitting its economic power and its contribution to international trade. There remain a number of deficiencies to be remedied, and thanks are due to the Commission for preparing a concept paper on this, which makes a number of proposals. I am sure that the Commission President will also report on this.
The issue of improving the functioning of the Union is also on the agenda of the European Council, of course. This rather grandiose title covers the efforts of the European Council to achieve tangible progress that is also measurable by individual citizens. This includes a number of initiatives that I should like to outline in brief. One initiative that is very important to the Austrian Council Presidency – and, I should add, to me personally – is the issue of transparency in the Council. These efforts are nothing new – progress has already been made in this direction – but the Austrian Council Presidency has attempted to find a global approach intended to create a new conscience about transparency, as it were. The core of this proposal consists in making the whole codecision procedure in all its stages open to the public. We believe that this is also a way of improving public confidence. We have not yet resolved all the reservations, but our Presidency is resolute in its intention to work towards this up to the last possible minute.
Subsidiarity has been an important issue, as, in addition to a conscience about transparency, we undoubtedly need greater awareness of subsidiarity. I should like to make it absolutely clear – because I know that here in Parliament, in particular, scepticism is expressed time and again – that we are not talking here about a desire for re-nationalisation. I wish to make clear that our Presidency has been guided by a different objective. We are talking about helping to focus European action on the specific fields in which it is capable of producing added value.
To this end, the Austrian Council Presidency organised a conference that was held in mid-April in St. Pölten, Austria, with the title ‘Europe begins at home’. This saw significant participation by Members of Parliament, of course, and you are familiar with the interesting proposals unveiled there. It is important to us that this issue now be a fixed item on the agenda and that it be borne in mind even more consciously than before.
I shall mention only briefly the considerable progress we have managed to achieve – and I hope that this will indeed be the case – on the issue of comitology. This is about powers of scrutiny, it is about the Commission, Parliament and the Council interacting efficiently. If the proposal drawn up yesterday between the negotiators can now be pushed through – both in the Council and Parliament – we shall have achieved progress that, although on a rather dry issue, is nevertheless important for our cooperation.
I should now like to move on to the last part of my speech: the future of Europe, the constitutional process, and the period of reflection. The period of reflection on which the European Council decided last June has meant that many Member States have taken more or less intensive initiatives to set in motion a real debate about the European project. The issue of European identity, too, has been examined from various starting points. I would remind the House of the ‘Sound of Europe’ conference at the start of the Austrian Presidency, and also of an event that, in my opinion, can definitely be called a success – the ‘Café d’Europe’ (European Café) event that was held at the same time in all the capitals on Europe Day.
The Commission, too, has been very active, having developed its Plan D. I should like to express my particular thanks to Commission Vice-President Wallström for her constructive cooperation. We have had a good working relationship with the Commission, to the benefit of greater transparency and a better response to citizens’ demands and expectations. It has emerged that Member States would like to extend this period of reflection in one form or another by at least one year. The detailed arrangements and what should happen afterwards will be discussed intensively at the European Council and the relevant proposals made.
Moving on to the subject of the Constitutional Treaty, we have succeeded in breaking the silence that reigned at first. It was not a foregone conclusion that this debate could be revived, but we worked hard at it and, in late May, succeeded in holding a discussion of this issue between Ministers for Foreign Affairs for the first time in more than a year. As one of the participants in this discussion, I can say that it was very open, wide-ranging and useful and did clarify the way forward on many points, even if no specific decisions were reached. It has become clear to all of us that the problems which the Constitutional Treaty is and has been intended to solve are still on the EU’s common agenda and that we must continue to pursue the constitutional project as a common European project.
The discussion between Ministers for Foreign Affairs in Klosterneuburg also made clear that the time is not yet ripe for a definitive solution to the legal issues connected with the Constitutional Treaty, because not all Member States are ready as yet. Therefore, it will be a challenge for the whole of the Union and a particular challenge for the coming Presidencies to work to ensure that, by 2009, there is clarity regarding the legal basis of the EU of the future. After all, 2009 is a crucial year for various reasons: it will see not only a new European Parliament, but also one or two institutional challenges, such as a new composition of the Commission.
It is not yet possible to determine the exact mandate the European Council will grant in this regard, whether a time frame will be fixed – and if so, what it will be – and how to proceed with regard to this; the Heads of State or Government will discuss and take decisions on this. I believe that that will certainly be one of the key topics at the forthcoming European Council. One thing is clear as far as the Austrian Council Presidency is concerned, however: we must work together with all the Member States and all the institutions to make progress on the key issues surrounding the future of the European Union.
Finally, there is EU enlargement, another issue that will be given prominence at the European Council. I do not wish to go into detail on individual countries. You are familiar with the status of the respective negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, which – we all hope – will accede to the Union on 1 January 2007. You probably followed the progress made the day before yesterday at the accession conferences with Turkey and Croatia in the face of all the problems that had arisen in the case of Turkey, in particular. In Klosterneuburg, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs did succeed in reaching some agreement on further common action. The Heads of State or Government will continue this discussion and determine how to proceed in the coming months. It has emerged that, in the second half of this year, the Commission will be working out, among other things, a contribution to the debate on the European Union’s capacity to cope with enlargement – for which, as you know, there have been calls from Parliament, too.
The conclusions of the European Council will mention the situation regarding the Western Balkans. As you know, this has been a particular priority for the Austrian Council Presidency. This issue is to be seen in the context of a policy of peace and stability in the Balkans. We shall be referring once more to the Salzburg Declaration by Ministers for Foreign Affairs and to the prospect of EU membership it holds out to the countries of the Western Balkans. A number of external –policy issues will be addressed at the European Council and declarations made on them: on the Western Balkans, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and the Middle East, respectively; and the EU Strategy for Africa will also feature on the agenda.
As you can see, there is an extensive menu in store for our Heads of State or Government and the President of the Commission. I hope that you will agree that we have worked hard over the past months on making some progress on all of these important issues, and we hope that the European Council will succeed in rounding off several issues and stimulating such discussion of others as is necessary in the coming period in the interests of Europe and of our citizens.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, Mr Winkler, ladies and gentlemen, one year on from the start of the period of reflection, it is time to take stock of matters. What stage are we at? What can we do to move Europe forward? What can one expect from the European Council?
I will begin by saying to you that a spectre haunts Europe: that of Euro-pessimism. While we already had the traditional Euroscepticism of those who have never wanted Europe to be a political project, we now have the pessimism of those who like to think of themselves as staunch Europeans and who very often sink into a state of ‘crisisphilia’, each one of them keen to demonstrate today that he or she has a better idea than the next person about the reasons why Europe is undergoing a profound crisis.
What has caused this Euro-pessimism? To a large extent, it has been the shadow cast by the 'No' votes in the referendums in two of our Member States. This shadow has raised doubts about Europe and about Europe’s ability to define a project for us to live together as Europeans. That is one of the reasons why we need to find a solution to the constitutional issue. I should like to make it perfectly clear: we, at the European Commission, are in favour of the principles, the values and the substance of the Constitutional Treaty.
It is a question of knowing, firstly, why we need this constitutional text. What do we lose by not having a Constitutional Treaty? We lose a clarification of the powers between the various levels, we lose an extension of the codecision procedure and an extension of qualified majority voting, we lose a legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights, we lose an EU Foreign Affairs Minister who would also act as the Vice-President of the Commission, and we lose more effective action in areas such as public health, food safety and even energy, because the Constitution was extending the powers in that area. We also lose an extra degree of consistency in external matters.
On this point, I should like to say to you – and my one and a half year’s experience as President of the Commission confirms this – that we, in Europe, genuinely need what the Constitutional Treaty was providing us with externally: more effectiveness, more democracy and more consistency.
The current Treaties do not allow us fully to achieve all of these objectives. Let us be clear, Nice is not enough.
It is a question of knowing how to overcome this situation. Will we succeed in settling this problem by talking day in day out about the Constitution? Will we succeed in settling this problem by restricting ourselves to a pragmatic approach? I would say no; I would say that we need to avoid two traps. Firstly, the trap that consists in saying, as some people would have it, that the Constitution is dead and buried and that we should only do practical things: that would be dangerous for Europe. Moreover, it would also be dangerous for Europe, I should point out, if, at this point, we were to let ourselves get caught up in a purely institutional or constitutional debate, if we were to claim that we are being held up now while we await a solution to the constitutional issue.
That is why we must progress on two levels, as is explained in our document of 10 May concerning the twin-track approach. The first level relates to a Europe of results, a Europe of practical projects, but – and we are coming to the second level – a Europe of results that is not in opposition, that is not an alternative, to political Europe, and that is, in contrast, a prerequisite for gaining the citizens' support for Europe as a great political project. Therefore, it is not about choosing between a Europe of results and an institutional Europe, it is about choosing them both. We need a Europe of projects and results if we are to have a great project for Europe.
What is this Europe of results that is being proposed? Despite everything, we have already achieved certain things. That is why I cannot agree with all those who say that Europe is at a complete standstill. I believe that, albeit unintentionally, they are compounding this crisis situation. I understand that it is the analysts’ job to say that Europe is at a standstill, but, as political leaders, we have a responsibility. Do you really believe that we are going to restore confidence among Europeans merely by sending out negative messages? No. In order to move Europe forward, we must revive people's hopes, restore their confidence and demonstrate what progress has been made.
The truth is that, even after the two ‘No’ votes in the referendums, we were able to settle the budgetary issue for the next seven years, and to do so for 27 countries. Thanks to the European Parliament’s contribution, we were able, despite everything, to find a political solution to the very controversial problem of the Services Directive. We were able, despite everything, to relaunch the Lisbon Strategy for growth and employment. We have launched a common energy strategy in Europe, something that was unthinkable two years ago. Let us therefore carry on making progress on the basis of practical projects. Let us achieve results so that we can create the right moment to deal with the institutional issue.
In our document of 10 May, we make some practical proposals. Without wishing to go into the details of these proposals again, I shall point out a few of them. To see what is not working in the single market in order to protect consumers in Europe. To see what obstacles still stand in the way of fully completing the great European market. To review our social sphere: what are the obstacles to a more united Europe? At the same time as making progress on the issue of the market, we must make progress on the social issue. On the basis of the existing Treaties, to make progress in relation to justice, cooperation and the fight against terrorism and crime. It is possible, on the basis of the current Treaties, to do more in terms of immigration and of the fight against illegal immigration, at the same time as dealing with issues concerning legal migration. This is a major issue. If the Member States want to do more, then they can do so on the very basis of the Treaties. Therefore, this is not simply an institutional matter, this is also a matter of political will. Let us therefore make progress in relation to justice and security. These are areas in which Europeans are calling on the Member States to do more, because it is obvious today that each one of us, on our own, cannot combat terrorism and cannot face up to the challenges of illegal migration: we must work together.
A great deal more can be done, too, in relation to the external dimension. The right solution is the one included in the Constitution: a Foreign Affairs Minister, Vice-President of the Commission. We must pool our skills and our resources in external matters, but, in view of the fact that there is still no Constitution, the Commission presented a document a few days ago that contains practical proposals designed to increase the effectiveness, consistency and visibility of the European Union in external matters. Moreover, we have made some important proposals regarding subsidiarity, transparency and better regulation for Europe.
We have there a series of practical projects, and that is without mentioning the two major areas that, in my opinion, will project Europe into the future: energy, following on from the Green Paper that we presented, and research. These are two key priorities.
The truth is that our research budget will increase by 60% for the next seven years compared with the previous period. That is why we proposed to create a network-based European Institute of Technology, with a view to giving a European vocation to our research efforts and to attracting the best researchers in the world. Why are the best European researchers now based in the United States? Why are we unable to attract the best Chinese, Indian, Latin American or American researchers here, to Europe? We also need a symbolic project designed to harness our abilities in the field of research.
Thus, let us rally around certain practical projects that can restore people’s confidence in Europe: this is the Europe of projects. The Europe of projects is not enough, however; we must settle the institutional matter too. What are we proposing on this issue? We are proposing to move on now from the so-called period of reflection and enter into a commitment period.
The first important stage is next year, when we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the European Community and the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. I do not believe that the Heads of State or Government can let the 50th anniversary of our Union come and go without committing themselves to this project for living together as Europeans. There are two possibilities: either we make a declaration focused solely on the past, in other words a simple commemoration, or we make a declaration focused on the future, a way of renewing our commitment for the sake of our common project.
As President of the Commission, I believe that I have the duty to ask the Heads of State or Government, who are the stakeholders of our projects, to renew their commitment. I believe that you too, as Members of the European Parliament, will have a right to ask our Heads of State or Government whether they wish to invest in this project for living together as Europeans, which is needed now more than ever in this globalised world. That is what we are going to do.
That is why I have proposed a declaration that is not simply a new Messina Declaration. You will remember the Messina Declaration, following the failure of the project for a European Defence Community; that declaration made it possible to revive Europe and subsequently to create the European Economic Community. It was signed by the Foreign Affairs Ministers. That is no longer possible today. As I have already said: Europe will not be bureaucratic, technocratic or merely diplomatic; Europe must be democratic. That is why all of Europe’s institutions must be involved and why I propose that this declaration be signed not only by the Heads of State or Government, but also by the Commission and by the European Parliament, which occupies a central position nowadays in the process of European integration.
If we succeed in this undertaking, by putting all of our energy into it, we will have an opportunity next year to relaunch the European constitutional process and the process of building a Europe that is an enlarged Europe, and that involves a debate on enlargement.
I do not believe in a miniature Europe, nor in a multi-speed, divided Europe. I do not believe that the response faced with the current situation and faced with the difficulties that Europe is encountering should be to say ‘let us divide up’. Are we going to let one or two countries create a more advanced Europe while letting the others lag behind? I do not think so.
I believe that it is our duty to do everything possible to make Europe, in its enlarged form, work. I say this to you in the light of some previous experience. If I compare the present situation with what was happening in 1992, for example, when negotiations were taking place with our US, Chinese, Russian and other partners, I can tell you that Europe is more respected outside its borders nowadays that it was previously. An enlarged Europe is a prerequisite for a powerful Europe.
Let us hold a debate on enlargement. We recognise that some members of our public have doubts about the rate and the importance of enlargement. Let us hold a debate on the issue of absorption capacity, but let us do so by highlighting the added value that enlargement has already represented for Europe.
That is the Europe that I so earnestly desire. An enlarged Europe, an open Europe, a more competitive Europe, a Europe that is much more than just a market, a Europe that has a political project, and a political project that is based on the idea of solidarity because, without solidarity, the very idea of a Union does not exist. That is the great project for the Europe of the 21st century. Not a closed Europe, nor a small, miniature Europe, but a great, enlarged Europe that is capable of shaping globalisation, instead of suffering the consequences of it.
That is the great project for Europe. If it is to be achieved, it is vital that politicians emerge from the vicious circle of Euro-pessimism and can start to build the virtuous circle of trust, with practical results, of course, but also with this great vision of our great Europe.
Jo Leinen (PSE), author. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the speeches by the President-in-Office of the Council and the President of the Commission have conveyed the good impression that the European Constitution is not dead but very much alive, and that there is the common will to bring this important European project to a successful conclusion. I believe that this Parliament can support wholeheartedly what we have heard.
The Austrian Presidency has revived the constitutional debate. That is a good thing, and it has been hard work, but we can see that all parties are now back round the table and deliberating together how to proceed. I believe that many issues on the agenda at the Summit – from energy policy to development policy to the common foreign policy – and many other issues would be easier to resolve with the new Constitutional Treaty than with the old Treaty of Nice. For this reason, the constitutional debate we need is not an institutional, but an eminently political debate. We must also inform people of the costs of not having the Constitution. In our resolution, we ask the Commission President to present the people with a study showing everything we stand to lose by not having this new Treaty.
This lunchtime, plenary will vote on a resolution containing a number of demands and also ideas for the next period of reflection and the further course of the constitutional process. The number one message to the Summit is that we once again need a declaration from all 25 Member States that they support this common project and are also willing to continue the ratification process. This declaration is necessary because other public statements have occasionally given the impression that the Member States concerned are distancing themselves from their commitments, and that would be a real crisis of confidence and a breakdown in loyalty among the Member States. I hope that the Summit can send out this message.
The second point I should like to raise is that we would caution against breaking up this global compromise and cherry-picking or dismantling this Treaty. That would weaken the project of a political Europe and endanger cohesion.
Thirdly, it is music to our ears that the Summit is to decide on a timetable. The EU has always been successful when it has been working towards a clear objective and a fixed date. That was the case with the internal market and with the euro, and must now also be the case with the Constitution. The dates 2007 and 2009 have been mentioned: these tally with those in our resolution, and we need this Treaty for the European elections. I would caution against going into the European elections with this crisis unresolved – that would strengthen Europe’s opponents and increase Euroscepticsm, perhaps even reduce voter turnout once again. We need to have succeeded by 2009.
We believe that specific dialogue is needed with the two countries that voted ‘no’ in their referendums. It remains an open question how and under what circumstances these two countries could continue the ratification process. We cannot get around this point. The moment of truth will come following the elections in the Netherlands and France, if not sooner, and their partners need to know what the specific problem is with the Treaty. The ‘no’ was very vague, and it is not much use to us. We need a specific proposal for how we can help and what we should do. It is about time we saw a commitment to examining this issue more closely – it cannot be resolved by others; no one else can hold the debate in their place. The effort needs to come from the two countries themselves, but they do need to be asked.
My next point is that the period of reflection is being extended, and indeed all parties should be committed to participating in this reflection. Some countries are still silent and are not becoming involved. That is bad for everyone, because these countries, too, still need to ratify the Constitution, and if the population does not know what it is letting itself in for and what is in store for it, that is bad for all the others.
We believe that public involvement should be increased. Commissioner Wallström’s Plan D is good. We, too, must do our bit towards ensuring that even more money is made available. We simply need resources, and we also need cross-border projects rather than just national debates. We must continue to promote this element – from citizen to citizen, from Union citizen to Union citizen.
We have had a very successful interparliamentary forum. This process requires the participation of not only the executive, but also the legislative bodies, the parliaments, and we, Parliament, are willing to continue this interparliamentary dialogue.
It must be clear by the end of this debate that Europe is not just Brussels; Europe is all of us, wherever we live in our countries, regions and localities – and if we succeed in this, we have achieved real progress.
Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, thank you for giving me the opportunity, one year after the French and Dutch ‘No’ votes and only one day before the European Council, to answer Mr Leinen’s question. It also gives me the opportunity to outline the Commission’s position on the period of reflection and on the constitutional process. I partly replied to that question last month, when I presented this Chamber with the Commission’s two communications to the European Council – the assessment of the reflection period and Plan D – and the Citizens’ Agenda, to deliver results for Europe. As President Barroso has already outlined, we have set a Citizens’ Agenda with these concrete projects and the things we want to achieve.
Before I come to the next steps to be taken, let me say this about the first steps. The Commission, as you have already heard, remains wholly committed to the principles, the values and the efficiency gains that the Constitutional Treaty would bring. We also welcome further ratifications, as from the Estonian Parliament recently, and as we have heard being announced from the incoming Finnish Presidency.
I would also like to reply to Mr Leinen’s question and proposal to look at the effects of a ‘No’ to the Constitution or no Constitutional Treaty, and we are fully willing to do so. I think we should look at what would be the consequences and the costs of no Constitution at all. We cannot ignore the fact that right now we have no consensus, no common position among Member States on the fate of the Constitution and the institutional reform that we need so much. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralysed by this, and we are not doing so, as you have already heard.
To begin with, the Commission intends to implement the ambitious policy-driven agenda to address citizens’ expectations and restore public confidence in the European project. After President Barroso’s outline, there can be no doubt about our determination. We shall deliver, and we will have to do that on the basis of the current treaties. We cannot afford to wait for what will shortly be 27 Member States to reach a consensus on the constitutional issue.
At the same time, the Commission remains fully committed to debating and engaging in dialogue with citizens at European, national and regional levels. The methods we will use are set out in Plan D – as in Debate, Dialogue and Democracy. We should use that to explain the added value of the European project. We should use that to argue why we need a new Constitutional Treaty. We should use it to discuss the political priorities with citizens.
Our two institutions may not always agree on every detail, but there is one fundamental belief that we share: our commitment to becoming a more democratic, transparent and effective Union. And that goes beyond any period of reflection.
I also believe that European affairs suffer from a participatory deficit. Still, citizens have high expectations on delivery and policy content, and this places important demands on the Member States and on our institutions. We must involve citizens more in the policy process at all levels, particularly young people and women. Such initiatives should be concrete and seen as a permanent function of developing European affairs, and they should ensure that the feedback process is taken seriously – what do we do with what we hear in dialogue and engagement with citizens? – and that listening is followed up by concrete actions.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Plan D is not a rescue operation for the Constitution. It is not limited to the reflection period – be it one year, two years or even more. It is a starting point for a long-term democratic reform process. We want to create a citizens’ ownership of EU policies to make them understandable and relevant, and to make EU institutions accountable to and reliable for those they serve.
I see and hear of lot of nostalgic harking back to the good old days of the European Union, but nowadays it is no good having a few men shut themselves away in a castle somewhere trying to solve the problems of the European Union. Today we need to engage citizens; we need the support and trust of citizens and the confidence of citizens to be able to build a future for the European Union. We need to engage and create the participatory functioning of the EU institutions.
As you pointed out in your motion for a resolution, we need a special focus in Plan D for the coming year, until the June 2007 Summit. I have already promised the Commission to come back after this Summit with a kind of mid-term review. I will pay close attention to the Summit’s conclusions in that review, and also to the resolution of this House.
Delivering concrete results and reconnecting with European citizens will create the favourable climate that is necessary for successful institutional reforms; that is the way we motivate it. So far, Plan D has been a successful exercise in terms of setting off a wide range of activities, and I believe we have started to think and reason somewhat differently. We focus on what is our reality of today and for the future, how we need to interact with today’s and tomorrow’s citizens. Over 660 activities have been taking place in Member States; hundreds of thousands of citizens have visited the Europe debate website.
For the future, I also think, as Mr Leinen does, that we need more of a citizen-to-citizen approach to allow citizens to meet across borders to discuss the European agenda. We should focus particularly on young people, the Europeans of tomorrow, and mobilise more women in the decision-making process. We need the whole of the European project to be more participatory, more transparent and more effective, and this ambition goes beyond any period of reflection. That is the only way we will be able to take the European Union into the future.
Hans-Gert Poettering, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I was pleased that the President-in-Office of the Council spoke of a working Summit. After all, Europe will make progress only as a result of day-to-day efforts, of hard, specific work, and not as a result of brilliant feats of rhetoric – there is no shortage of soapbox speeches in Europe. I should like to wish the President-in-Office every success for the Summit.
My particular thanks go out to the President of the Commission, however: not only for being here today – he could, of course, say that he is only present when the President of the European Council is here – but for what he has said today. After all, we recently heard great criticism of the Commission President by our esteemed fellow Member Mr Schulz and, as Mr Schulz is, of course, known for his objectivity, I am assuming he will be very complimentary about the Commission President’s speech in his own speech shortly.
This dual path – defence of the principles of the substance of the European Constitution on the one hand and specific projects for taking Europe forward on the other – has our strong support. I wish to stress on behalf of our group that this has our emphatic support, and it would be good if the other group chairmen were to join me in stating that quite clearly. When we celebrate the anniversary of 25 March 1957 next year – on 25 March 2007 – our group will insist that this event not be a celebration of those Heads of State or Government who engage in mutual appreciation under or in front of pretty flags, but rather that it express Europe’s democracy, and that there be European Parliament involvement in the declaration and the establishment of our objectives for the 21st century. I am saying this for the benefit of the General Secretariat of the Council, as it does not actually tend to be the Heads of State or Government who obstruct things. I would call on the General Secretariat of the Council to give Parliament due involvement from the outset, as the Commission President has proposed – for which we should like to express our appreciation and thanks to him.
My second comment concerns security in Europe. This, of course, is a delicate balancing act – on the one hand, there is the public’s need for protection against serious crime, against terrorism, against illegal immigration, and we expect specific measures to be taken on this, but, on the other hand, when it comes to immigration, we also expect respect for human dignity and a search for humane measures to deal with illegal immigration. We cannot accept the situation in which thousands of people are dying a wretched death in the Mediterranean and on the seas of this world, but instead must take specific measures on this, too – to prevent these human tragedies.
A further point concerns the Lisbon Strategy. On the issue of the Services Directive, we have proved our good will, our capacity for action – and compliments to the Austrian Presidency for taking this path. We are in favour of a European Institute of Technology – provided that it creates a network rather than new bureaucracy. As regards energy supply, we are in favour of diversity: diversity with regard to energy sources – we cannot rely on just one form of energy, nor can any form of energy be ruled out – and also diversity with regard to supply. We cannot rely on a single country or a small number of countries for our energy supply, but need diversity of suppliers too, and the principle of solidarity among all Member States of the EU applies here – we cannot leave anyone in the lurch.
Speaking of the concept of solidarity – and looking here at Mr Kasoulides – I consider it unacceptable for us to negotiate with Turkey at the present time – and that is a decision, and taking a decision means the Treaties must be complied with – when Turkey does not recognise one of the Member States of the EU, when it does not extend the customs union under the Ankara Protocol to Cyprus. This runs contrary to the solidarity that unites us in the EU, and for this reason we must insist that the customs union be put into effect.
My last comment concerns the debate on the Fundamental Rights Agency. I have my doubts as to whether this is the correct path to take, and I ask that we reconsider. Of course, the Council of Europe has been presented with a report by Jean-Claude Juncker on this subject. Parliament needs to consider the best means of cooperation with the Council of Europe and also with its Parliamentary Assembly. The work that the Council of Europe does today, which has proved its worth, should not simply be transferred to the institutions of the EU; instead, we should concentrate on ways of complementing each other, since the Council of Europe is also a European community of states, with 46 members. We have 25, soon to be more, and the activities of each community must complement the other’s sensibly. If the Council Presidency takes that into account at the Summit, my praise for the success of this Presidency will be even greater. I therefore wish the Presidency every success for the Brussels Summit tomorrow and the day after.
Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start with a comment for the benefit of the President-in-Office of the Council. The day before yesterday, this Parliament adopted an interim report on the Temporary Committee on the CIA. The voting in my group was fairly consistent, that in the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats fairly inconsistent, but nevertheless a majority recognised that the EU is founded upon the rule of law – and I would ask the President-in-Office to convey that message to the Council in preparation for the meeting with George Bush. The existence of the EU and its Member States is based on the philosophy of the rule of law. The EU is a place where the rule of law prevails; Guantánamo and the CIA flights are places of lawlessness. A community based on the rule of law such as the EU, which defends its values, must say a clear ‘no’ to the abuse of our institutions by the US secret services and an even more emphatic ‘no’ to the existence of legal vacuums such as Guantánamo. I would ask the President-in-Office to convey that message at the Summit.
Mr Poettering has made reference to my legendary objectivity, for which I am most obliged to him. He forgot to add that he was quick to join my criticism of the President of the Commission when he and Mrs Martens sent a joint letter with similar content to the Commission President.
(Heckling from Mr Poettering)
To Mr Schüssel, too – all of them members of the PPE-DE Group. It is not our problem if your own house is not in order, Mr Poettering.
The President of the Commission has merited praise today, therefore – if he says the right thing, we are on his side. We say ‘yes’ to the need for this Constitution, and ‘yes’ to the reforms that the Constitution must bring in order to replace the inadequate Treaty of Nice. The fact that he is now stating that in public rather than always leaving Commissioner Wallström in the lurch, that he is declaring his support for it in front of this Parliament, represents progress. Bravo, you have done well, Mr President of the Commission.
That alone is insufficient, however – something else is needed, something that has also been mentioned today. We need to ask those whose referendums are responsible for throwing out this Constitution what they are actually proposing, how we can surmount this obstacle. The Governments of France and the Netherlands should also be obliged to suggest to the EU ways of resolving this dilemma. I have a suggestion for France. I am fairly sure that, if Mr Chirac were to announce that he would resign immediately if the people voted ‘yes’ to the Constitution, we would be assured of overwhelming majority support for the Constitution from the French. One thing is clear, however: the EU’s crisis is also a crisis for some governments, and that is the reason time and again for the inability of the European Council to move forward on most points, as some governments do not want this Constitutional Treaty and others are hiding behind those who do not want it. Incidentally, that is true of Denmark, Portugal and all those with a difference of opinion from the three present and future Council Presidencies. The Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen, is courageous in symbolically ratifying and declaring his support for the Constitution during the Finnish Council Presidency.
I think that it is good that Austrian Chancellor Schüssel has declared his support for this Constitution. Although the proposal he has made for this referendum is not a new one and has already been discussed by the Convention, it does show that Austria wants this Constitution. The German Government, which will then hold the third successive Council Presidency, has declared its firm support for this Constitution, which is a good sign. Anyone who says that this Constitution is dead is mistaken.
The Council’s proposal, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, to demand a solemn declaration from leaders of whether they do indeed wish to further European integration, whether they really support the principles of deepening integration, whether they still support the spirit of the Treaties of Rome 50 years on, is a good idea. The content is what makes the difference – it must state that the solemn declaration being made is one not of noble objectives, but of concrete action. It could read, for example: yes, we want the Constitution – its content, in particular – to become reality. After all, one thing is absolutely clear – and I say this on behalf of our group and of all its members: we want EU enlargement. We welcome the draft conclusions on Romania and Bulgaria. We know that the prospective accession of the Balkan States has a peacemaking effect there. For this reason, we declare our belief in the necessity of enlargement. Without the constitutional reforms and the associated division of powers, however; without the clarity of action or the democratising potential that the Constitution holds, this enlargement is impossible – unless we want to destroy Europe, which we do not. For this reason, we are all required to continue to fight for this Constitution, so that Europe retains its basis in the rule of law and acquires the economic strength it needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the success of this week’s Summit rests, first and foremost, on delivering on one concept: democratisation.
Democracy, transparency and accountability must be the building blocks that shape the future of our Union. Without a clear commitment to all three, we will be left with the piecemeal solutions that have stalled reform efforts hitherto and reinforced public distrust in the Union.
Europe will be built with the support of the citizens or not at all. Addressing the democratic deficit means an end to the rubber-stamping of regulations behind closed doors. That is why my group congratulates the Austrian Presidency on building on commitments to make transparency the rule rather than the exception in EU policy-making and welcomes the willingness shown by the President of the Commission to publish the names of those who sit on thousands of European Union advisory committees. We still look forward to receiving them, Mr Barroso.
We call on the Council to announce that all discussions on lawmaking by codecision will be open to public view. We know – as the journalist Meg Greenfield wrote – that everybody is for democracy in principle, but it is only in practice that it gives rise to stiff objections. We note that, whatever they say in public, those two old secret plotters, Britain and France – the two countries that nurtured democracy at national level and yet with her offspring now suffer amnesia – are still resisting openness in the Council. It is up to the other countries to pull them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
In the short term, the Council must put its faith in Parliament and allow us greater legislative scrutiny. Key initiatives, particularly in justice and home affairs, are often hampered by the absence of qualified majority voting and they end in stalemate.
The time has come to apply the passerelle clause of Article 42 and shift policies from the third to the first pillar, as proposed by the Commission in its Communication of 10 May, for our reputation – indeed our influence – rests on upholding values like democracy, liberty and respect for human rights.
Data protection in the third pillar is necessary to ensure protection of personal data. Likewise, minimum procedural guarantees for the European Arrest Warrant – which I had the honour to pilot through this House – have been held up in the Council since 2001.
We want to see progress on all of those issues in order to make the European Union more democratic and more effective. Europe demands no less than an unequivocal drive to democratise decision-making.
In the long term, only a constitutional treaty – as practical as it is ideological – can provide the institutional framework to democratise Europe. But it is also time to recognise that the sixteenth and final Member State likely to ratify the Constitution in its current form is Finland. We must recognise that France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom will never ratify the 2004 text. Denmark, Ireland and Sweden cannot ratify in current circumstances. The Czech Republic and Poland choose not to ratify, and Portugal will find it almost impossible, while committed to a referendum.
So there are two options: renegotiation or oblivion. The sooner we take steps to make structural and substantive improvements to that text and address public concern, the better.
President Barroso, I welcome the vision and determination you are showing today. But I want to hear you say that louder and more often to the Member States. You are right – they are all shareholders in the enterprise, but they have been gripped by a fad for short-termism, and anyway the markets are falling. We need to hammer home to the Member States just how much they need the European Union.
My group thanks the Austrian Presidency for its good work thus far. We wish you success with other important items on your agenda: migration and other aspects of the Hague Programme; social and economic policy; the fundamental rights agency that we so badly need. Make sure too that our Foreign Ministers have aid to Palestine and CIA renditions on their agenda. The fine wines that you served them at Klosterneuburg were a good aperitif. They now need to sit down to the meat.
Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (IT) Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased, Mr Barroso, that you have changed your mind regarding what you said a year ago and regarding the Constitution. I only hope that you do not change your mind again and that you can demonstrate the same determination to the Member States too.
Firstly, if the declaration must be ready in March and if the European Parliament intends to contribute to it in some way, I believe that we ought to say something different regarding the matter on which we are due to vote tomorrow, which is simply that we need to retain this text and that this Constitutional Treaty is the only thing that the European Parliament can accept.
Mr Leinen, this resolution does nothing to further the debate on Europe that we all want. If we intend to achieve a result, then we must also make the content of our proposal clear. The Member States have not succeeded in doing this but, unfortunately, neither have we.
Secondly, on the subject of sustainable development, we find a number of very interesting statements in the final declarations that we have received. Nevertheless, we believe that there are practical things that need to be done and that are not even being proposed. A more decisive measure is needed on climate change, on transport and on biodiversity, and the European Union’s funds need to be used in a more environmentally friendly way. Instead, all that we are doing is taking a step backwards, with a set of proposals on air, on waste and on many other subjects that well and truly baffle us.
We are pleased that the importance of transparency has been reaffirmed yet again, even though we believe that it is far more important to effectively monitor the application of Community law than to get tangled up in complicated and very costly impact assessment procedures. This trend is very fashionable, but we feel that getting tangled up in complicated and not particularly transparent procedures is a danger to our democracy.
Furthermore, Mr Barroso, we are still encountering a whole host of problems in terms of transparency and accessing documents, with regard to which we do not feel that the Commission is doing enough. We therefore endorse what the Council has done, even though we know that words are one thing and actions are quite something else, and we have already made various proposals and requests that have not been exhausted to date.
Thirdly, I wanted to address the issue of the external dimension. Mr Winkler, on the subject of energy, we are slightly concerned by the fact that the only priority mentioned in the conclusions relates to the acquisition of resources and to the transportation of those resources within transit countries, while no reference is made whatsoever to eco-efficiency and renewable energy sources. These elements have an external dimension, however, because the 15 international car manufacturers have an impact on oil prices that is perhaps equal to that of OPEC. I believe that this silence from Europe is a negative element.
Furthermore, in the final conclusions you state that it is hoped that a negotiating mandate will be adopted for the Balkans. Yet who should grant this mandate, if not the Presidency of the Council? I believe that, on this point, over and above hoping, you ought to be more specific.
I shall conclude by addressing you, Mr Winkler, because when you spoke about Tunisia yesterday, we were very disappointed and surprised. You said that a number of funds for NGOs had been released. That is not true, and the Commission also confirms it. The sum of EUR 900 000 for the Human Rights League has not been released, and I regard the fact that the Presidency is claiming the opposite here as extremely negative. I urge you to check your sources and to let us know whether or not this corresponds to the truth, because this is a very serious example contributing to Europe’s lack of credibility.
Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, Mr Winkler, each of the main agenda items for the forthcoming European Council in its own way raises the issue of the meaning of European integration. Such is the case with regard to the results of the famous period of reflection and to the common energy policy, and Europe’s action in the world does not escape attention either.
I shall begin by mentioning the period of reflection and its extension. The first part of the Brussels Summit’s draft conclusion is dedicated to this and is charmingly entitled: ‘Europe listens’. That is all well and good, but what is it listening to? The document elaborates on the measures to combat illegal immigration, which, I might add, are most unfortunately juxtaposed in the same sentence with trafficking in human beings, terrorism and organised crime. It deals with the Union's intervention mechanisms in the event of a crisis. It stresses the need, in future, to take the European Union’s absorption capacity more rigorously into account before embarking on the road to any further enlargement, and so forth. These are so many issues that are, I agree, present in the debate with our fellow citizens. Strangely enough, however, the issue that is at the heart of the crisis of confidence plaguing the Union, that is to say the social issue, is, for its part, completely sidelined in the European Council’s draft conclusion, which, in the course of one sentence, merely calls on the Commission to draft a report on the situation by next spring. Saying that is not tantamount to sinking into crisisphilia, Mr Barroso. I would point out that the Austrian Presidency itself put its finger on this issue as far back as January. That is what we must discuss first in order to draw the necessary conclusions from it. The public’s trust is not given as a matter of course. It is won.
Let us turn now to the European energy policy. Helping to address the 21st century energy challenge is, in fact, a European responsibility par excellence. Unbridled competition and the race for profitability are, however, unacceptable in this context. Preparing for the post-oil period, making far greater progress in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, developing the research effort with a view to increasing energy efficiency and diversity, transforming the way in which transport is organised and affirming the right to energy for all are eminently political tasks that, if they are to succeed, cannot be restricted by the short-sighted calculations of the market.
Finally, the same debate concerns Europe’s ambitions in terms of external policy. Who can oppose the desire to provide ourselves, as the Commission is proposing, with operational instruments and rules able to increase the consistency, effectiveness and visibility of our external action? It is my conviction, however, that the fundamental reason for the weakness of Europe’s action in the world is neither technical nor institutional. It is due to the tragic lack of political will and common vision at the European Council. How else can we interpret, at this very moment, the staggering inertia of the 25 faced with the Israeli Government's irresponsible torpedoing of the initiative of the Palestinian President, in flagrant and continual breach of both the UN resolutions and the Quartet’s road map? All of that reinforces our idea that the famous period of reflection and Plan D will only be useful if they represent an opportunity to hold a trouble-free debate in the open on the structural changes to be promoted so that Europeans might once again see a reason to be positive about Europe in the world today.
Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. – Mr President, I would like to thank the President of the Commission and the President-in-Office of the Council, as well as the Vice-President of the Commission, for their presentations and contributions. I would like to deal briefly with a number of issues that I think we should be addressing in Europe, before returning to the issue of the period of reflection on the Constitution.
The Austrian Presidency has proven over the last few months that when you deal with a particular issue in a certain way you can achieve success. When you try and bring the different players together you can achieve a result that nobody thought possible. We have already seen this on a number of different legislative fronts, both in the cooperation with Parliament and in the work with the Commission. I think that is what Europe needs today: a greater understanding that there is a return on the investment made in terms of time and effort. That return is not just about esoteric ideals, but about creating real solutions to the problems that people face in their lives.
Unfortunately, too much of the debate is now determined by what media commentators are saying, rather than what the citizens of the European Union are saying, because when you speak to people and ask them what their needs are, and what kind of Europe that they want to see, they all reply that they want an internal market, greater job security, greater energy security, better personal security and safety, for their children to have a safer and cleaner environment in which to live and for Europe to play a responsible role on the world stage. Taking all these things together, why do we in this Chamber seem to speak about a crisis of confidence in Europe, when the level of crisis, fear and loathing which some people would have you believe exists is simply not there among the general public?
There are a number of key things we can do in the coming Council meeting to try and drive things forward. First of all, there must be a restatement of commitment and idealism in respect of the Lisbon Agenda, establishing the genuine goals and targets of having, by 2010, the most dynamic economy in the world and creating the investment, research and development that we will need to create new jobs and new opportunities. We also need to follow through on existing dossiers, be it the services directive, the protection of public services or the right to universal service, and bring these into being.
With regard to energy, the President of the Commission has come forward with a good policy for a common energy policy in Europe, but we should also look at the alternatives, including the opportunity to use fuel crops to produce energy.
Finally, as regards the period of reflection on the Constitution, I consider it wrong to call it a constitution, and was delighted that the Foreign Ministers said in Austria that it was wrong to do so. However, it contains some good points and I welcome the perspective outlined for us by the President of the Commission, and the Vice-President of the Commission in particular, in pushing the idea of a Plan D and taking up on those good points and moving forward. My only words of caution are that we should not jump ahead of what the governments are willing to do, because ultimately the governments are the key representatives of their peoples and national interests.
Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (DA) Mr President, what we should do, rather, is start afresh and set up a new, directly elected Convention to devise proposals that can then be put to referendums in all the Member States simultaneously. In that way we would obtain the ground rules that voters want and we could call the EU a democracy and a union of democracies.
The Summit’s document on openness is a fig leaf. Last year, the EU adopted more than 3 000 acts. Fifty-seven of these were adopted through a joint decision-making process. Complete transparency and joint decision-making were also decided on at the Seville Summit in 2002 and again at the end of Tony Blair’s Presidency. Now it is Mr Blair’s own foreign minister, Margaret Beckett, who is trying to block progress at the last minute. If the measures are adopted in any case, journalists will all be able to write the joyful story of how the Summit met people’s expectations by making progress towards transparency.
The majority of EU laws will, however, continue to be adopted by officials in 300 secret Council working parties after having been prepared in 3 000 other secret working parties under the auspices of the Commission. Instances of openness and democracy will continue to be exceptions to the rule. The real progress made at the Summit is in terms of its support for the Commission’s proposal that, in future, all proposals should be dealt with in proximity to the people, that is to say in the national parliaments. It is a constructive proposal, and the initiative now lies with the national parliaments. I hope that they are ready to seize the opportunity.
Hans-Peter Martin (NI). – (DE) Mr President, allow me to offer some constructive advice. Use your many means and your sensory mechanisms to find out what the European public really wants. The answer will presumably be security, justice, accountability and democracy.
The field of security is not doing too badly. The field of justice – which can only be the product of the two last-mentioned fields, namely democracy and control – is sadly lacking. I am convinced that the breakthrough can only come if you make a break with the things that have previously failed, move away from the things that have not worked: away from the Constitution and towards the Basic Treaty, with subsidiarity, transparency and control. There is a very great lack of this.
I would ask you to understand that, to very many Europeans, the elite gathered in Brussels and Strasbourg is currently as welcome as chewing gum on the cashmere sweater of society. This has to change. When it does, you are in with a chance.
Othmar Karas (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, when he awarded the Charlemagne Prize, Jean-Claude Juncker said, among other things: ‘Thank goodness other people are watching us who are not Europeans. Africans, Asians, even Americans never cease to marvel at European successes. The only ones to grumble about them are the Europeans themselves. I cannot understand it.’ Neither can I. We should stop talking ourselves into a crisis and instead work together on the requisite projects and solutions.
The President of the Commission is right in saying that Nice is insufficient. That is why we had Laeken, however, and Laeken produced the Convention – and so we have already drawn up a new Treaty that needs to be transposed. He is right in saying that the two referendums with a negative outcome have plunged us into a crisis that is partly reinforced by our calling it one. That is the reason for the period of reflection we have had for one year now. That is why we want to salvage the political project of the Constitution. Indeed, it has already been ratified by 16 Member States.
To the President-in-Office of the Council I would say that I most definitely expect this Summit to put an end to any talk of the death of the political project of a new Treaty, and to result instead in all parties declaring their support for the decision on this political project, concluding it in this parliamentary term and continuing the ratification process. I expect there to be no talk of the crisis of the European Union, only talk of the political projects; I expect to see not only analysis, but also the setting of dates, the establishment of projects, the issuing of work orders, the establishment of timetables and the involvement of the public.
Let us take over the parliamentary forums and establish them in the national and regional parliaments, too. Let us increase transparency and make Plan D more specific. This will enable the successful implementation of the political projects and mean that the period of analysis is a thing of the past.
IN THE CHAIR: MR McMILLAN-SCOTT Vice-President
Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, the Council’s agenda features an important topic in the shape of the EU’s enlargement. I should like to say a few things about Romania and Bulgaria, which will be in the limelight today because of a resolution that Parliament will be adopting later on today. Last month, we debated here with Commissioner Rehn Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession further to the Commission’s progress report on the preparations of those two countries. This week, the Heads of State or Government will be addressing the same subject during their meeting.
Our group takes the view that the Commission has reached an even-handed verdict. The Commission shares our ambition to hold firm to 1 January 2007 as the accession date for both countries, provided they apply themselves to addressing the outstanding reforms. Like the Commission, we are convinced that this should be possible without any problems. Our group has always been consistent in its support of Romania and Bulgaria joining on the planned date of 1 January 2007. Those two countries must now concentrate on tying up loose ends in order to meet the accession date. I think that both countries have the political impetus to achieve this.
They both appear to have learnt their lesson, as was also the reaction in those countries to Commissioner Rehn's report. The reactions from Sofia and Bucharest to his report were very much to the point, to the effect that they had both made a note of what was required of them and they were going to go off and do just that. This attitude further strengthens my optimism that Romania and Bulgaria will take their homework seriously. Moreover, both countries have made considerable progress over the past year, which is encouraging. As such, it is not relevant to speculate about deferring their accession. Both candidate countries have demonstrated recently that they both have resolve in what they do, which gives my group the confidence that preparations will be completed in time.
As such, we have, at the moment, no fundamental objections to the Commission proposal not to arrive at a final verdict until next October when our final report is due. We would welcome it if the Council were to adopt the Commission’s attitude. In adopting this attitude, we all have our own role to play. The roles of Romania and Bulgaria are clear. In the past, we have asked the Commission to make an extra effort in order to help Romania and Bulgaria in their preparations, and to be clear about what they expect of the candidate countries. We would reiterate that request now.
The Council, too, has the responsibility to reach an even-handed verdict, but it also has the responsibility to ensure that the EU countries finish the ratification of the accession treaty on time. As was agreed last year with the European Commission, Parliament too will remain involved in monitoring the accession process right to the end, and I am convinced that this will result in a positive outcome.
Silvana Koch-Mehrin (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, I would say to the President-in-Office of the Council that, at the end of the Austrian Council Presidency, his country’s government has another chance to rescue the Council from its helplessness, as his country’s Presidency has produced very mixed results so far.
I very much welcome the initiative for greater transparency in the decision-making process. As Mr Watson said, the Presidency really has passionate supporters of this in the shape of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. On the other hand, the irony of the story, in a way, is that 2006, in particular – the European Year of Workers’ Mobility – has seen the adoption of a Services Directive that hinders that very mobility.
As regards the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, however, the Council must understand that this Treaty has failed in its present form. If we are really serious about the ubiquitous profession that the focus of European policy must be on the citizen, we cannot simply ignore the ‘no’ in France and the Netherlands, nor can we ignore the fact that other Member States have already announced that they will not be ratifying this Constitutional Treaty. Europe needs a constitution – that much is perfectly clear – and the substance of this Constitutional Treaty is good, but specific proposals must be made for what can be changed.
In this context, I was very pleased to read an interview with the boss of the President-in-Office, Wolfgang Schüssel, in the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper – for two reasons. Firstly, he said that he supports Germany in the World Cup. I think that is excellent – now we are sure to win. Secondly, however, he took up the proposal to hold a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty on the same day in all the Member States of the EU. I think that is excellent, as such a step would really bring citizens and European institutions closer together. In addition, it would really be a historic event: a constitution that citizens had awarded themselves – that would really be an important Treaty.
The President-in-Office said, in all modesty, that there were no epoch-making decisions on the Council’s agenda. Yet if he succeeds in putting the idea of a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty on the same day throughout Europe in front of the other Heads of State or Government and in winning support for it among them, he will be able to say, in all modesty, that he has produced epoch-making decisions. I wish him every success in this.
Johannes Voggenhuber (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow is the day when the Heads of State or Government come together to ceremonially extend their period of inaction and helplessness. Guy Verhofstadt called it a ‘deafening silence’: the din of cherry picking, subsidiarity and proportionality, of ‘emergency brakes’ and ‘core groups’ from the sandpits of technocracy – most of these terms not even translatable from the English. We have another year of this din in store for us.
I wish to say to the President-in-Office of the Council that an interim report on the European debate is due to be presented at the end of his country’s Presidency in June of this year – but there is no debate. The Presidency has promised us a roadmap for overcoming the crisis in Europe – but does not have one. It has promised that Europe would listen – but its discussions have been held in closed circles among hand-picked elites, have been held with experts behind closed doors, and the Presidency has only heard what it wanted to hear. The citizens are not speaking about all of this.
Having had one year to think things over, the President of the Commission comes here and gives the following answer to the question as to the causes of the Europessimism of the people: the cause is the failed referendums. The President is mixing up cause and effect. The failed referendums are the result rather than the cause of Europessimism. The cause is the failure of intergovernmental Europe, of its massive democratic deficit, of its weak legitimacy, of its becoming bogged down in unanimity and nationalistic rivalry. The Governments have been standing in the way of Europe. They want to rule Europe as a sideline. They are not able to come up with a social response to globalisation. These are the causes of the pessimism among Europeans. They are disappointed in Europe; and that is why a European democracy is needed. I hope that this understanding plays a role in the Council, too.
Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the last year has been marked by numerous popular protests against the Services Directive, but also by campaigns against the dismantling of social services and the weakening of democracy. I need only point to the campaigns in France, Greece and Germany – in Germany, the protests by university-clinic doctors that have been going on for months already are still continuing – and all of this is connected with the politics we are pursuing at national and European level. It is time for not only governments, but also the Commission and Parliament, to realise at long last that, outside the European institutions, the EU public started long ago to develop its own conception of a different Europe, a different EU.
Nevertheless, it has become apparent from the plans for and deliberations on the forthcoming Summit that have been seen to date that the European Council wishes to give the public the impression of having understood the ‘no’ to the European Constitution as a criticism of merely the style of politics, rather than of official policy and priorities. At all events, neither Plan D, a white paper on grass-roots communication, a great deal of paper, nor a number of new websites have changed the priorities of this policy. That is, unless the listening of which Commissioner Wallström has just spoken results in the requisite corrections at long last. Admittedly, if she were to understand the requisite measures of which she has just spoken in the sense of these corrections, she would have our wholehearted support.
However, the reaction that we have seen thus far this year strikes me as showing lack of understanding. In my view, a further demonstration of this is the recent proposal by the Austrian Council Presidency to put the old text of the Constitution, without amendments, to a direct vote in the EU Member States. That is unacceptable – corrections must be made. Once this has been done, it is perfectly legitimate to consider holding a referendum. We must finally put an end to the situation seen up to now, in which the various countries have merely been engaging in ratification and glorification. In this respect, the opportunity of the 50th anniversary that has just been mentioned should actually be taken to hold a democratic debate on the EU’s plans and projects to date, and thus also to enable a new start for the European Union.
President. I am sorry. If your group gives you two minutes’ speaking time, then you stick to those two minutes. This is not the beginning of the end of your speech, it is the end of your speech. Could people please stick to their speaking time.
Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the European Council will once again discuss the future of the Constitutional Treaty at its forthcoming meeting in Brussels. However, there is a saying that you should not flog a dead horse. The Constitutional Treaty, which was rejected in referendums by the French and the Dutch, is just such a dead horse, regardless of how many Member State parliaments ratify it. It is difficult to imagine that any French or Dutch leader would be willing to put the same document to their people again.
Moreover, in the Treaty there is a clear attempt to move towards a single European state, although in recent years Europe has witnessed trends in quite the opposite direction. Before our very eyes, eight independent states emerged from Yugoslavia. One of those countries is now in the European Union and the others are knocking at the European Union’s door. In Spain, the separatist tendencies in Catalonia are hard to overlook, while in Belgium it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain unity between Wallonia and Flanders. It is therefore impossible to accept a text which appears to steer against these patently obvious processes.
Let us therefore stop flogging this dead horse and deal with issues that are really important to Europe and its citizens. We need to support entrepreneurship and create new jobs, we need reforms to accelerate economic growth and increase tax revenues in order to allow greater spending on social programmes, education, public healthcare and pensions.
If the European Union is effective in resolving these problems, then Europe will also function well without the Constitutional Treaty.
Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, the European Council is once again returning to the issue of the draft Constitution for Europe, in spite of the fact that the text which it is stubbornly attempting to resuscitate is dead. Some commentators have referred to these actions as political necrophilia.
European Union citizens do not want the Constitution and their wishes should be respected. This seems to go unnoticed by Commissioner Wallström, amongst others, who recently stated, during a meeting in Krakow, that it is vital for the European Constitution to be ratified. However, she did not say how the Constitution would resolve the specific problems of the citizens of the Member States or what would happen to the citizens of those countries which have already rejected this Constitution in democratic referendums.
The Constitutional Treaty is a threat to democracy as it has nothing to do with the participation of citizens in deciding the fate of their countries or with the accountability of politicians to their electorate.
Jean-Marie Le Pen (NI). – (FR) Mr President, the people of France and the Netherlands are sticking to their guns. According to a British poll, 74% of French people and 75% of Dutch people do not believe that a single part of the European Constitution should be implemented, unless a decision is made to hold another referendum. This is a bitter show of dissent for Mr Sarkozy who, disregarding the vote cast by the French population, wants to make the congress vote again just on parts I and II of the Constitution. It is also a show of dissent for those who wanted to make the people of France and the Netherlands vote again on the Constitution, a Constitution accompanied by a social protocol designed to reassure the French and by a protocol on subsidiarity designed to reassure the Dutch.
It never rains but it pours for the Euro-federalists: according to the same poll, 63% of French people and 68% of Dutch people want to take back a number of powers from the European Union or to leave it altogether. This is an act of revenge by the European nations on the ideological and irresponsible Eurocrats in Brussels. It is also the return of the right of the peoples and nations to follow their own destiny and to defend their sovereignty and their identity.
Let us return to the Europe of realities and the Europe of nations, which the British and the Danes were able to retain so successfully. They rejected the Schengen Agreement and a Europe overrun by massive influxes of immigrants granted residence and work permits on the initiative of Mr Zapatero and Mr Berlusconi. They rejected the euro and its budgetary austerity pact, which curbs growth. They rejected the European Super-State, which is aimed at destroying the nations of Europe.
The fact that a decision will be made during the forthcoming European Council in Brussels to extend the period of reflection by one year reveals – – if there were any need to reveal it – – the divide that exists between the nations of Europe and the self-proclaimed elites, who have not learnt a single thing and who act as though nothing had happened. They did not grasp the fact that Europeans were feeling deceived by this passive, ultraliberal Europe, which is all about fine words and slogans and which has the weakest growth rate in the world and the highest unemployment rate. They did not grasp the fact that the nations of Europe did not want Turkey in Europe and that the Turkish advance imposed by Brussels was creating an irreparable split.
Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE). – Mr President, this Summit is scheduled to be, in part at least, a stocktaking exercise on the European Constitution. Yet the Constitution, however you look at it, is to a large extent discredited. France and the Netherlands should not be asked to vote on it again, and the Dutch Prime Minister’s remarks should be taken very seriously. The longer this issue drags on, the more out of touch the European Union appears to be with its citizens.
We must move on from the endless debate on constitutional mechanics and get on with delivering results, because if we do not do that, citizens will conclude that their leaders have learned nothing. Cherry-picking from the constitutional text, at this stage at least, would be unproductive.
However, we certainly need a Europe of results, as President Barroso has rightly suggested. I personally also want to see a Europe of real reform, because without reform there can be no results. Progress has been made in economic reform and I congratulate President Barroso and his colleagues for the work they have done there. However, we need to do much more and be more focused, as Mrs Wallström said, on achieving the concrete results.
There is one other thing I briefly want to mention. The British Foreign Secretary said that she will try to overturn decisions on opening up Council meetings to public scrutiny. This is absolutely astonishing and worrying and is a U-turn in British Government policy. Mr Blair constantly preached the virtues of more openness during his Presidency and we got a specific agreement that we would get openness in relation to Council meetings and Council processes. It is absolutely essential that the other governments give the British Foreign Secretary a short, sharp shock at her first Summit and ignore her attempts to preserve secrecy in this unfair and unacceptable way.
What has she got to hide? It is a shameful move on the part of the British Government and I hope it will be soundly defeated.
Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, it has already been said that the forthcoming European Council will not have any dramatic decisions to take. Nevertheless, it could give out a very important twofold signal, namely ‘yes’ to enlargement, but also ‘yes’ to strengthening the institutions of the European Union, particularly in the context of the Union’s capacity to cope with enlargement.
It never ceases to amaze me when some of our British fellow Members say that we do not need a constitution but we do need a lot of new Members. Equally, some Polish fellow Members – particularly on the right – are opposed to the Constitution, but believe that Ukraine must join as soon as possible. That will not be possible. There will not be majority support among the people, or in this House, for further enlargement unless the relevant changes are also made, including the EU’s capacity to cope with this enlargement. We need to face this fact.
Anyone in favour, as I am, of setting further enlargement in motion will certainly be reflecting on how to make a place in the EU for Ukraine. He or she will also have to state quite clearly, however, that the EU first needs to be given the necessary strength.
The fundamental content of this Constitution needs to be implemented, however, be it in the present or an amended Constitution. If there is a consensus on this and the Council also says so clearly, this will send out a clear signal, the right signal.
As rapporteur for Croatia, I am also delighted that a clear signal has been sent out to Croatia. The country has long deserved its own negotiations. I will also be very pleased when we state clearly – including in relation to Thessaloniki, and maybe in even stronger terms than we did in Salzburg – that we have an obligation to the Balkans, not only in the interests of the countries themselves, but also in our own interests. If, however, we also state clearly and unambiguously that we first need to strengthen and reform our institutions accordingly – people will understand – then that will be an important signal; one could even say that it was an epoch-making signal that this European Council was sending out.
As regards the partnership with the USA, the Summit with this country follows the European Council, and preparations will also have to be made for this. We have said time and again that this partnership is desirable and necessary. Yet it must be based on common values, one of which is respect for human rights, and that is why Guantánamo and the issue of the activities of the CIA are so important to us, why it is so important to us that these issues be on the agenda. This is not because we want to detract from the USA or from the fight against terrorism, but because we want to conduct the fight against terrorism alongside the USA – on the basis of these common values.
Karin Riis-Jørgensen (ALDE). – (DA) Mr President, I have an appeal to make to the EU Heads of State or Government when they meet in Brussels tomorrow and on Friday. First and foremost, they should involve the EU in their national debates. When reforms are debated in the Member States, not a single word is said about the EU. The fact is that the EU really is a completely foreign concept when the welfare state is subject to review. In, for example, Germany, France and my own country, Denmark, we are currently debating what economic reforms are needed to secure welfare in the future. All national politicians – ministers as well as ordinary members of parliaments – should, however, be clear that a strong and effective EU is absolutely necessary and is a precondition for any welfare state. Why, then, this deafening silence? What is the use of the Commission and Parliament setting all these resources aside for a dialogue with the people when national politicians let the side down in such a damaging way?
We in the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe have constantly worked to bring about openness in the Council of Ministers. Why is the United Kingdom now suddenly faltering after Tony Blair promised here in Parliament to open up the meetings of the Council of Ministers? It is simply not good enough. Openness about the work of the EU is an absolute necessity if we are to be closer to the people. I would therefore call on all the Heads of State or Government to open up the meetings of the Council of Ministers so that everyone can see how they proceed, can hopefully see that there is nothing to hide and can see whether ministers have actually been present. We should thus also avoid holding 25 different press conferences in which everyone is a hero. I am also looking forward to the Presidency giving a favourable reception to President Borrell’s call for action to bring about a one-seat EU.
Pierre Jonckheer (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Winkler, Mr Barroso, I should like to go back over one part of your speech. You said, with good reason:, that we must progress on two levels: The strengthening of the single market, on the one hand, and social solidarity, on the other. I would add: social justice and equity. I believe, Mr Barroso, that the rejection and the Europessimism are fuelled by a rather keen awareness of the fact that we are not actually progressing on two levels and that the action of your Commission, like, I might add, that of the Council, has been to prioritise the first level. I should like to tell you or to remind you that, under your Presidency, as, moreover, under the Prodi Commission, no new social legislation has been decided on by the European institutions. Furthermore, no new collective agreement between social partners has been decided on either. It is this serious imbalance – I believe – that is increasingly affecting one section of the population, the one which, as a result of globalisation, has the most uncertain status. It seems to me that the Council, Parliament and the Commission should respond to this situation.
That brings me to my second point, which concerns the instruments designed to promote social solidarity or social justice. Mr Barroso, we will be unable to build an equitable model in the future if we do not have a fiscal policy at European level. That is the contradiction between those who are reluctant to pursue enlargement and those who want more social justice: maintaining unanimity on all fiscal matters amounts to standing in the way of a possible European fiscal policy. It has taken 15 years to have a directive on savings income, which is, for that matter, full of derogations, and we are not making any progress on common standards in relation to corporate tax.
To conclude, Mr President, the European Union’s political project does not amount to a single market, which we need, but to a form of competition among national models. We need a more proactive approach and more common policies at European level in order to guarantee fairness and a European social model.
Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL). – (NL) Mr President, if we did not have a European Union, there would certainly be a need for a Europe-wide cooperative that contributes to a better life for those living in the border regions, to cross-border aspects of the environment, energy supply, consumer protection and to the protection of health against internationally tradeable dangerous substances. People want a Europe that helps remove the barriers for peace, social security, public services and international solidarity. This is quite different from adorning a world power or increasing the freedom of international corporations.
People want a Europe that helps them solve their problems, rather than a Europe that causes inconvenience. People no longer recognise that Europe in the Union’s current phase. Voters in two countries have given us a signal that things must change. If we want to stick with the European Union that we have, it will have to be fed from the bottom up, by our citizens and their organisations. Continuing with constructions from the top down, dreamt up by the powers that be, will not solve anything. We will need to use enlargement and the increased involvement of our citizens creatively in order to make a new and better start possible.
Konrad Szymański (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the majority of the reforms required can be carried out without the new treaty. One example is the agenda of the forthcoming European Council meeting, which will address the extension of the Schengen area, the issue of rendering the debates of the Council more transparent, the negotiations on European Union enlargement and the reform of external policies.
Let us not make the Treaty of Nice unpalatable to Europeans, as it is all we have today. We not only need to reflect on the new treaty, but also on the political will of Member States and their citizens in relation to carrying out common tasks. The problem is not the lack of a new treaty but the lack of shared beliefs concerning the future. We announce better legislation and yet we are adopting a Services Directive that is so vague that the European Court of Justice is rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of the ensuing cases which will give it even more power.
We announce common interests in energy matters, yet on a daily basis we are conducting an utterly selfish energy policy. We announce investment in research, yet the European Technology Institute is withering away before our eyes, ripped apart as a result of national self-interest. We claim to espouse the principle of subsidiarity, yet we are funding a framework research programme which will be cofinanced by all European taxpayers, even though some of the research concerned is illegal in many Member States.
These are real splits which, if we wish Europe well, are regrettable. These are splits which place larger question marks over the state of the European project than the demise of one or other treaty.
Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM). – (NL) Mr President, the European Council must end the confusion about the status of the European Constitution once and for all. While one Member State declares the document dead, another Member State ratifies the Constitution as if nothing was wrong. I appeal to the Heads of State or Government to put an end to this confusion; if not, public confidence in the Union will wane even further. I support extending the period of reflection by one year, on the condition that we go back to the drawing board for a completely new treaty document. I would prefer a treaty document to a constitution, a manageable document that combines the previous treaties, a treaty in which the Union, within a defined space, demonstrates its added value in the area of cross-border policy challenges.
I would particularly call on the Austrian Presidency to show leadership by finally removing the confusion that has come about and to give the emergence of a new treaty framework a shot in the arm. Austria is finally leaving its mark on this programme, something which I have waited for for six months.
Roger Helmer (NI). – Mr President, we like to claim that the EU is a Union of values based on democracy and the rule of law. Yet when the Danes voted against the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, when the Irish voted against the Treaty of Nice in 2000, they were told to go away and try again. So much for democracy! When the French and Dutch voted against the Constitution last year, we ignored their verdict. We are trying to revive a constitution which is dead in its own terms. We are implementing large parts of it with no legal basis. So much for the rule of law!
In our pigheaded determination to press on with the European project in defiance of public opinion, we show our brazen contempt for the voters and for democratic values. The voters are starting to notice. Amongst my East Midlands constituents I sense a growing concern and, indeed, anger against the European project. So, press ahead with the EU Constitution if you must, but be warned: you are fuelling public resentment, which will blow the European construction apart.
Gerardo Galeote (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, illegal immigration has become one of the European Union’s major challenges. In Spain, for example, according to all the opinion polls, it is seen as the country’s second biggest problem.
I would therefore have liked to have heard the Austrian Presidency say something more decisive, more ambitious and more concrete about the progress you expect from the next European Council in this field.
Besides the provision in the draft Constitution, we could – and in my view we should – continue to make progress on the communitisation of measures to combat illegal immigration.
I am well aware that some people will say that certain governments take decisions against the wishes of their European partners, ignoring the Commission, and then, when problems arise, they want them to be resolved amongst all of us. I would like to say to those people, however, that, with a Community policy on immigration, there would never be mass regularisation without control, and the 'pull factor' which we are currently so afraid of would not therefore exist.
Legal immigrants must be guaranteed integration and equal rights and obligations. By the way, we could consider transitional measures for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens who – I too am sure – will soon be Community citizens.
Moving on to other issues, the Presidency referred in passing to the document requested of Michel Barnier. Since last summer, Parliament has done a lot of work on natural disasters; we have visited the areas affected and, as noted in a resolution approved practically unanimously, we have seen great dissatisfaction in society and too little coordination amongst the competent administrations.
Finally, I would like to say that you have not said anything about the Regulation on the Funds. One detail remains to be resolved, Mr President, so that Parliament can vote for it during the first week of July. Your colleagues can tell you about it, but I would ask you to make a final effort and I wish you the best of luck.
Robert Goebbels (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, the European Union and the world need reliable, affordable and sustainable energy flows. I have just quoted Mr Solana. The interesting document he addressed to the European Council is distinguished by a number of deafening silences: while he does indeed speak of the need for an energy policy for Europe and for an action plan incorporating a number of priorities, Mr Solana carefully avoids mentioning concepts such as the ‘common energy market’ and the ‘single market’. In short, the Europe of necessary solidarity on energy is still very much in limbo.
The fact is that the energy issue is going to become a key element of all European policies. Energy will dictate our international relations policy. The economic, environmental and social policies of our countries will be governed by it. Energy will have more and more of an influence on all of the Union’s policies: from agriculture to structural policies, via housing, transport and research.
In spite of that, Europe’s response to the various energy challenges remains weak and lacklustre. What should be done? In order to influence its external supplies, Europe must first display its internal solidarity, its will to build a genuine common market. Mr Solana tells us that the best way of guaranteeing a reliable and affordable energy supply is to have the world markets function properly. The fact is that the world markets are dominated by cartels and oligopolies. Where is the free and transparent market dear to the liberals? Gazprom has just begun talks with the Algerian company Sonatrach, whose aim is certainly not to do the Union any favours. Is it not time for the countries with high energy consumption to organise themselves, in turn?
In its resolution on the Lisbon Strategy, Parliament called on the Union to consult with the US, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Indians, with a view to preventing a form of competition that would end up ruining everyone. Europe must invest in energy efficiency, in new technologies and in renewable energy sources. Everyone knows that Europe’s future energy supply will be neither 100% nuclear nor 100% renewable. We need as intelligent an energy mix as we can possibly have, bearing in mind the differences in geography and climate within the Member States, as well as their resources in terms of primary energy, biomass and so on.
The Union cannot overlook any course of action. All forms of research must be encouraged. Then, above all, Europe must become more united and more vigorous in defending our common interests.
Andrew Duff (ALDE). – Mr President, the purpose of this debate is to provide President Borrell with something interesting to say when he speaks at the European Council tomorrow. I fear that if Parliament simply agrees the line proposed by the PPE-DE and PSE Groups, we will be signing up to the same paralysis that exists within the Council.
President Barroso is quite correct in saying that we must make progress on policies, and a ‘Messina 50’ is probably a positive proposal, but what is the point of extending the period of reflection without providing a target and a purpose for the reflection? Procrastination is not a credible policy. Waiting for the successors of Chirac, Balkenende and Blair to be thrusting federalists is a crazy fantasy.
What we require is for the European Council to establish a rendez-vous with a decision in the autumn of 2007, setting up a fresh conference to renegotiate Part 3 of the Constitution. These are not just legal problems, President-in-Office, but a profound political crisis which we must address. I expect it is going to be possible to ring-fence the classical constitutional provisions that we find in the first and second parts of the Constitution, around which consensus still exists. However, it is Part 3 which contains the common policies that have so greatly disappointed public opinion in France and the Netherlands and in several other places, notably as regards social and economic policy and the issue of borders.
In fact, we have little choice. We either try to improve the product and market it effectively within the court of public opinion, or we consign the whole project to oblivion.
Bernat Joan i Marí (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, one of the main mechanisms for the integration of Europe is the enlargement of the European Union. Bulgaria and Romania are at the doors of the EU, Turkey is already negotiating its accession conditions, the new state of Montenegro has expressed its hope of becoming a member of the European Union, and other states in the Balkans may follow suit.
In this context, I should like to focus on the issue of the Copenhagen criteria and the policies related to minorities. Many states are still following the old-fashioned French model and trying to assimilate those who have a language and culture different to that of the state. In Romania, for instance, there is a large Hungarian-speaking minority, whose rights must be fully recognised before Romania enters the European Union as a way of recognising internal diversity. That is to say as a way of respecting human rights, because fulfilling minority rights is absolutely essential to respecting human rights. The European Union gives hope to minorities. Please do not disappoint them.
Jonas Sjöstedt, (GUE/NGL). – (SV) Mr President, the Council’s draft conclusions begin with the title ‘Europe listens’. The question is whether that is true. The EU might listen, but is it concerned about what people are actually saying?
A year ago, the referendums in the Netherlands and France sent clear messages to the EU. The draft Constitution was rejected by large majorities. If the EU had listened, that decision would have been respected. Instead, what was referred to as a period of reflection was introduced, with the unexpressed but clear aim of having the same Constitution smuggled in later, notwithstanding the will of the people. Now, debate and reflection have been announced, but a debate aimed only at having the same Constitution dusted off later is meaningless. All the answers to emerge from such a debate are provided in advance. Such a period of reflection is in danger of turning into manipulation rather than genuine democratic debate. If the desire is for an open debate on the EU’s future, the democratic ground rules must be respected, and it must be made clear that the Constitution has been rejected once and for all.
Roger Knapman (IND/DEM). – Mr President, we are to have an extended period of reflection, are we?
Some people who are having periods of reflection are otherwise known to be ‘in retreat’ and some retreats are made in better order than others. Some people, Mr Barroso, might have learned from reflection to date, saying that perhaps it was not the case, or that they might have done things differently, or even, perish the thought, that they were wrong. But all we have heard this morning is, ‘We were right. The people of France and Holland are wrong. The Constitution should be brought back’. You have employed new architects to build on exactly the same foundations of integration, over-regulation and empirical ambition. Fortunately, only three people in ten in Britain any longer believe any of this rubbish, so roll on our referendum, whatever the question!
(Applause from the IND/DEM Group)
Mario Borghezio (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to mention two topics, namely enlargement and the fight against terrorism.
As regards enlargement, I shall highlight the importance of the compatibility criterion and of absorption capacity, which I am afraid has not been strongly supported by my country in the debates within the Council.
As regards terrorism, a truly obvious question must be asked. How is this commitment on the part of the European Union compatible with the recent appointment in Italy of the former Prima Linea terrorist, Mr D’Elia, who is guilty of being an accessory to the murder of an Italian police officer?
The ties of solidarity linking the European left to the new Italian Government have until now prevented this obvious question from being brought to people’s attention and debated within the European Union. This is disgraceful when we consider that, in Italy, the terrorism of the Brigate Rosse and Prima Linea groups has affected not only police officers, judges, politicians and industrialists, but also trade unionists and exponents of the best Labour culture, such as Professor Biagi.
Jacques Toubon (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Winkler, your Presidency can already boast of a positive track record. We congratulate you on it. As for the European Council that is due to take place, it is not in a position to take major decisions, but it may have a decisive influence on the future fate of the European Union.
Paving the way for a revival or endorsing a failure: that is the challenge awaiting you. You will have to determine the strategy for future enlargements. I call on you to stop forging ahead regardless, an approach further illustrated by the opening of detailed negotiations with Turkey, even though the latter does not fulfil the political conditions and is making no further progress with regard to integrating the acquis communautaire. From now on, we must regard the European Union’s absorption capacity as a key parameter. There can be no further enlargement without an improvement in the decision-making mechanisms, without a sufficient budget, without new resources and without a genuine agreement on the nature of the European project.
This is what it is basically about: constructing a political Europe by setting out the timetable for implementing the main reforms contained in the Constitutional Treaty, which we refuse to forget about. The Convention obtained a result that cannot be overturned. We must go beyond Nice.
What should the content of the European policies be? We do not want Europe to devote the bulk of its decisions to improving the internal market, that is to say, to creating a vacuum. We want a Europe that builds. We want the governments and our Parliament to draft the policies that we need: on immigration, energy, economic coordination, research, security and foreign relations.
Contrary to what is claimed, Europeans want more Europe, but they want a Europe that creates forms of solidarity, that guarantees security, that makes an impact on the world and that does not just police the market. They want a Europe, too, that respects its most sacred commitments: Strasbourg as the seat of the European Parliament. A great deal of lucidity and courage will be required. We trust that you will provide evidence of this at the end of June.
Magda Kósáné Kovács (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, we have been saying that Europe is a citizens’ Europe, because the European Union exists through them and for them. At the same time, we are feeling the uncertainty, and we are actually voicing our questions, because we know that decisions have become disassociated from citizens, who tend to view the results of the Community as natural; however, solidarity does not come naturally to everyone, as you would like it to be, Mr President, and I have deep sympathy for everything you have said concerning this issue. The political effect of the enlargement is making itself felt behind the will of those who voted against, and solidarity has not become second nature to our operation, but, like you, I do have hopes for the future. We want more solidarity and a continuously consolidating democracy, and this is why we need the Constitution. On the other hand, we are, at times, at a loss as to why the old Member States, during the Council session, abandoned their former initiative concerning the creation of the Fundamental Rights Agency, when we, new Member States, are continuously proving ourselves in matters of democracy and respect for human rights. Even today, the importance of democracy, openness and transparency has not been questioned by anybody. But when it comes to human rights, why do we prefer to examine others rather than ourselves, the Member States of the European Union? We will not be able to avoid Community control in respect of the enforcement of human rights.
A few thoughts about the social dimension of the European Union: the European Union has taken into account the challenges faced by new Member States. We believe that defining preferences for the European Social Fund is particularly important in the course of the determination of social policy objectives. But in order to ensure that the social Europe is truly social, it is not sufficient to emphasise the objectives of competitiveness versus those of employment; we must also emphasise social cohesion, because in the absence of social cohesion, not only nations, but the European Union itself may become divided. At this point I would like to add that we are grateful that the Roma problem has recently been emphasised to the extent that we have seen.
Finally, when it comes to catching up, some are travelling in a high-speed elevator to the designated floor, while others have to struggle on the stairs. Let us think of those who have started the painstaking process of climbing the stairs.
Bronisław Geremek (ALDE). – (PL) Mr President, Poland supports the Constitutional Treaty. Do not listen to Polish politicians. Listen instead to public opinion in Poland. Over 60% of Poles support the Constitutional Treaty. If that is the case, what can we do to make sure it comes into force? The period of reflection is for the citizens and not for the European institutions. For them, it is time to get down to work. The Austrian Presidency can be proud of its many achievements, three of which I would like to point out today.
First of all, there is Strasbourg. The optimism of Mozart’s music encouraged European politicians to be optimistic about the Constitution, something that is significant. Secondly, I think that the heeding of Parliament’s call for Council debates to be more transparent was a very important step and I congratulate the Austrian Presidency on this achievement. Thirdly, Mr Barnier’s report, which is one of the most interesting European documents to have been drawn up recently, will also stimulate debate.
However, what should we do at this point? Right now, together with the Commission, we have to address two serious social problems. This is something the subsequent presidencies should also address. First of all we need to deal with the problem of immigrants in Europe and, secondly, the problem of Europe’s social dimension. They should become the focus of Community policy, of a common European policy. Finally, we need to ask what can be done to make the constitutional text possible? This lies in the hands of the European Commission. The third part of the Constitutional Treaty largely repeats treaties that have already been ratified. The European Commission should carry out a legal analysis and only the 25 or so amendments that have already been tabled should be included in the first part of the treaty and be subject to an immediate decision.
This is a great task for the European institutions and I would like to express my faith in the Commission and the Presidency of the European Union.
Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM). – (EL) Mr President, there are two issues here: do we have and to what extent do we respect democracy in Europe and who is ultimately in charge. If we truly believe in democracy and that the Constitution will bring change to the lives of the people of Europe, we should allow the people of Europe to have their say in a referendum. We should not be afraid of the people of Europe. Who is in charge? Are you in charge, Mr President of the Commission? If you really are in charge, tell me where the southeast borders of Europe are. You do not know, because Turkey does not allow you to know. Well done. Let me ask you about the law of the sea. It applies everywhere in Europe except to the Aegean. Well done. Which country is threatening Europe? Only Turkey in the Aegean with its casus belli. Well done. Which country is violating Europe? Is it Russia? No, it is not. It is Turkey every day in the Aegean. Well done. Which country does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus? It is Turkey. Well done. Which country is occupying 40% of a country of Europe? It is Turkey. Well done. Where is the effigy of the Ecumenical Patriarch mocked and hanged? In Turkey and you tolerate it. Well done.
These are the facts, Mr President of the Commission, and I propose that your next meeting with Mr Bush should be held not in the Azores, but at Guantánamo. That is where you should hold it, so that you finally understand what is happening in this world and how you are colluding in the crimes of the Americans.
Jana Bobošíková (NI). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, at the start of the Austrian Presidency, Chancellor Schüssel promised movement on the Constitution talks. I therefore expect a clear message from the Council meeting that the text foisted on the citizens is incomprehensible, unfair and, most importantly, dead, and that the time has come to draw up a new document.
Given that Chancellor Schüssel is a politician who stands by his words, he should not accept the manipulative delaying tactics employed by Chancellor Merkel and President Chirac. They want to leave the Constitution to mature ‘naturally’ for one more year, and then to come to a decision on it during the German and French Presidencies.
Austria is, from a historical perspective, in the best position to alter this process. It has already travelled down the path of attempts at European integration. Less than a hundred years ago, the Austro-Hungarian Empire united 21 European countries. It only lasted for 51 years, however. Why was that? Problems were not addressed and were left to mature ‘naturally’. I feel that extending the period of reflection on the current Constitution shows disdain for the citizens and the campaign to resurrect it is simply throwing their money down the drain.
Antonio Tajani (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, I address you, Mr Barroso, because I welcomed your speech this morning in which you revived Europe’s great project.
We have at last heard the Commission raise its voice loudly in this House in order to revive politics and to secure the Union's due role on the international stage. This is the Commission that we want and that Europeans want too. It is a Commission that is shaking off the burden of bureaucracy, which is mainly to blame for the people of Europe’s estrangement from the institutions.
Mr Barroso, I agree with you. If we give up in the face of difficulty and if we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by pessimism, then we will not achieve any objective whatsoever. Politics must not fail the great challenge of building a Europe that is aware of the role it must carry out on the international stage, that is to say, a Europe that exports peace, a Europe that is capable of taking a leading role in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, in the Balkans and in the fight against terrorism and against counterfeiting, a Europe of strong transatlantic relations.
That is why the constitutional process needs to be concluded. The first six months of next year are crucially important. We support the German Presidency in preparing – as the Austrian Presidency has already done and I am sure Finland will do too – a series of political initiatives for 2007 involving the 450 million Europeans that are all too often forgotten about. Parliament must, and I am sure that it will, play its part as leader.
The Romans used to say nihil difficile volenti, nothing is difficult for those who want it. We want a political Europe, a Europe of values, a Europe of the people, a Europe of subsidiarity, a Europe of solidarity and a Europe of freedom. Mr President, we cannot allow ourselves to fail this challenge.
Harlem Désir (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, as well as Euro-pessimism, another spectre haunts Europe: that of autism and its associated hypocrisy and myths. That spectre fuels the one you mentioned. I too understand the attachment to the Constitutional Treaty on the part of those Member States that ratified it and of the majority of MEPs. Like all those who campaigned for it to be ratified – and I was one of them in France – I remain convinced that it contains some crucial advances with regard to the functioning and the democratic life of the Union.
However, we must dispel the myth that, in time, it will be possible to present the same text, accompanied by a simple annex, in the countries in which it was rejected. We must also do away with the hypocrisy of the Member States that have so far been unable to ratify it and that, in actual fact, are quite simply unable to secure a majority, particularly when the people have been promised a referendum.
I believe that we need instead to acknowledge this and to try to forge ahead, as you proposed just now, Mr Barroso, because European life cannot be founded on regrets. We need a revival, advances and progress. This revival – – and on this point too, I agree with you – – cannot be limited to the debate on the institutions. It hinges on policies. It hinges on the Europe of projects, on the Europe of growth and knowledge, and on the Europe of research, of energy and of cooperation in the Mediterranean. As regards the institutions, desperately wanting to keep the Treaty as it stands may not be the best way of saving its substance. I think that the period of reflection – – which the Council appears to be spending its time extending – is, rather, in danger of preserving the Treaty in aspic.
I believe, in fact, that this exercise will soon reach its limits and that we must instead prepare to go beyond it by proposing a new road map. In order to go beyond it, we will need to do what your predecessor, the current Italian Prime Minister, said yesterday and draft a new and simpler text, which permits limited, but crucial, reforms. As for these reforms, they should be clear and easily understood by Europeans and should mainly focus on improving the democratic functioning of the Union and on clarifying the responsibilities among the institutions.
Which reforms? I will mention six of them, and I believe that we should more or less stop there. Firstly, to strengthen the powers of the European Parliament, whose legitimacy is being recognised more and more by Europeans. Secondly, to make the Council's work more transparent when it debates legislative matters, as it is unacceptable that France and the United Kingdom should now place obstacles in the way of this transparency. Thirdly, to ensure that the appointment of the President of the Commission is made by taking into account the votes cast by Europeans during the European elections. Fourthly, to implement a power whereby the national parliaments can monitor compliance with the principle of subsidiarity. Fifthly, to review the rules on qualified majority voting on the basis of what was agreed in the Treaty of 2004, in such a way that they are based on the population. Finally, in fact, to bring in a foreign affairs minister. The Member States have already given their backing to all of these ideas. I am convinced that, in all of our countries, the majority of people would be willing to support these reforms. We need initiatives. Let us attach importance to the substance rather than to the form.
Karin Resetarits (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Zeus should declare his feelings for his lover Europa: that was my plea six months ago at the start of the Austrian Council Presidency. His wife at home must be blind if she cannot see that there is quite some activity outside the marital home. A great deal of pomp and flashing lights, a great deal of silver and porcelain, distinguished guests, one important engagement after another, and now even a meeting with George W. Bush. There is never a dull moment with Europa.
What kind of a figure does this Europa cut on the international stage, however? Is she a strong, self-confident woman with the support of those around her, a woman who we believe to be capable of guiding us safely through difficult times? Do we believe in Europa, or do we see a figure plagued with self-doubt, who does not know her role in this society, in this network of connections between individual countries? What is it we want from Europa? What do we expect of her? We certainly have a clear idea. We believe that Europa should protect us from poverty, should provide security, should ensure that we do not have to live from hand to mouth, but instead are able to put something aside both now and in the future, should not let others treat her like a child in the global village, and should set an example. Expectations of Europe run high, but we do not believe it capable of meeting any of them. This explains the great scepticism that registers on the Eurobarometer.
At the present time, Europe is completely incapable of meeting the expectations of the public – the Council gives it far too little scope to do so, and the Commission keeps it occupied with tasks that increasingly alienate it from the European public. No one understands Europe. What does it spend all its time doing anyway? The essentials remain undone – that message, at least, is conveyed – and so discontent grows. Europe urgently needs a new master plan with projects focused on the citizen. It needs to become less ponderous, needs to develop an image. This is impossible when the Council Presidency rotates biannually. One goes, another takes its place; this is a ‘halfway house’, not a safe home.
I know that things would be different if we had the Constitution. This will not be the case in 2007, however – and so I ask that the Summit produce clear competences and greater efficiency for Europe. If it does this, even the public will give the green light for the Constitution.
Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM). – (SV) Mr President, typical statements contained in the Presidency’s draft conclusions concern the EU’s need to listen to people and need to conduct a dialogue with them. Statements of both these kinds envisage a situation involving two parties. Who, then, are the parties that in some sense confront each other? Curiously enough, it is the people of Europe and the establishment. This means that political representatives do not in practice see themselves as representatives of the people but as a group or establishment in opposition to the people. That is very unfortunate. That is why we are always so surprised and shaken at the results of our occasional referendums in Europe. The European party structure is completely out of date. Europeans cannot vote for their own parties and, at the same time, communicate their deep euroscepticism. That is something we must change in the future so that we do not continue with this undignified game. An establishment must listen to the people and be prepared to conduct a dialogue with them. The establishment must represent the people.
Paweł Bartłomiej Piskorski (NI). – (PL) Mr President, I have the growing impression that the discussion on the future of Europe has reached a dead end. It is like the obstruction of a blood vessel which supplies the heart with blood. If this situation continues, there is a risk of an extremely serious and extensive stroke. I have the impression that the discussion on the Constitutional Treaty is precisely such an obstruction.
I am someone who supported the Constitutional Treaty and who still supports it. I nevertheless lamented the fact that, as a result of the ambitions of certain politicians, it came to be known as the European Constitution, which led from a pragmatic discussion of what should be included in the treaty to a referendum for or against the European Union. Although I lamented this label and these ambitions, I also acknowledged that such a treaty was necessary.
Today, it should be very clearly stated that this state of affairs is untenable. It is not possible to vote again on the same document in these countries. I appeal to you to remove this obstruction, allowing fresh blood to reach the heart, so that we may deal with serious problems such as the real liberalisation of the European economy, something which still has not taken place.
Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, one of the subjects for the forthcoming Summit is the attempt to define the European Union’s exact absorption capacity with regards to potential new members.
Further enlargement of the European Union depends on this definition. It will be an important debate as this definition should not be the key which closes the future path to membership for the European Union’s most important neighbours. Fear of enlargement provides bad counsel. We should, of course, aim to define the geographical borders of the European Community, but we also should remember that we are bound by clearly defined criteria that are supposed to be met by potential candidates for European Union membership.
We have to remember that the Union is an attractive project which gives hope to millions of our neighbours: Belarusians and Ukrainians. Today, in Belarus, we support civil society. The current dictatorship, backed by Russia, makes it impossible to pursue any other policy. However, the Union should pay particular attention to defining clear European prospects for Ukraine. The behaviour of the Kiev Government when attempts were made to use energy as a tool for blackmail in December, its solidarity with Moldova, for example the close monitoring of the Transnistria region and its good relations with Georgia show that Ukraine can be a real stabilising force in the region and can guarantee the growth of democracy. It is an invaluable ally for the European Union.
I will now move on to the second issue related to the European Summit, which is the creation of a Fundamental Rights Agency. This is supposed to be an important institution whose work should support respect for human rights. However, I would like to express my concern about the fact that there are attempts to limit its scope to activities in the Member States of the European Union. The historic mission of the Union is that of supporting and promoting democratic ideas and governments. Worldwide, many threats still exist outside the European Union.
That is why the setting up of a Fundamental Rights Agency should be used to send a clear message to the global public that the Union possesses an effective instrument to support all those who fight for human rights and basic democratic freedoms. That is why I appeal for the activities of the Agency not to be limited to the territories of the 25 Member States. The Agency needs to act in other countries as well, most importantly those which are covered by the European Union neighbourhood policy or by partnership agreements, as is the case with Russia.
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (PSE). – Mr President, there is an old saying that if you do not fight, you do not count. Mr Barroso, I like to see you fighting. I recognise that you are fighting for a new treaty. I also like to see Commissioner Wallström fighting – you make a nice couple when you are fighting.
Let me tell you that we really need to fight now. What is going on in the Council? I know what is going on: maybe one day, through informal contacts behind closed doors, we will get a new treaty, as Mrs Wallström said today, but that was the old way of doing things. Now we need to do it together with the people. If we do not have the people with us, we will not have a new treaty. That is why I am so happy to see that we together – Parliament, the European parties and the Commission – can have a true European debate with ordinary people.
Excuse me for saying so, but it is a hell of a job, because it takes time and energy and often you get very little thanks for it. However, at the end you will make a difference in history, because the result will be a new treaty.
Therefore I just have two pieces of advice to give you. Firstly, we, together with the chairman of the group, have focused on the following issues. We cannot do more to resolve international conflicts, especially in the Middle East, without a new treaty. We cannot create more and better jobs and ensure better economic cooperation without a new treaty. We cannot combat terrorism, trafficking and cross-border crime without a new treaty. We need a new treaty in order to have low energy prices. We need a new treaty to have greater transparency.
Therefore, Mr Barroso, I recommend that you work harder, as you have said, on this declaration next year. However, promise me that one of the major messages in that declaration next year will be that this European Union is not a competition amongst states, because that is what people increasingly fear. They fear uncertainty and financial competition on lowering taxes, a sort of social dumping, thereby undermining the welfare state. This European Union is a transparent and fair competition in the free market between firms, services and projects, which can contribute to our wealth. That is a very important signal to send out. The European Union is about people: putting people first, combining a new welfare state and a modernised version, for this region’s prosperity.
My last point is that we need Bulgaria and Romania. We need to have a clear signal, President-in-Office, when you meet the day after tomorrow. We will meet in Brussels, with our leaders and prime ministers, and our message will be clear: we need Bulgaria and Romania from 1 January 2007. They deserve it and Europe needs them.
Markus Ferber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to make three brief comments. First, I do wonder, when we hold our debates here in Strasbourg, whether we should really be setting up the Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna in competition to the Council of Europe, a tried and tested instrument that is able to take on this task not only for the EU Member States but far beyond our borders. I can really only encourage you, as I have also said to Chancellor Schüssel in a debate, to make an active contribution to treating the European disease of 'agencyitis' effectively. You could also send out a clear signal from your own country in that connection.
Secondly – and in this I almost completely agree with what Mr Rasmussen said before me – we obviously also need to defend our own values in the context of the enlargement negotiations. I am rather worried that we are falling back into the mechanical behaviour that we have been experiencing here for the past 10 years and that we have criticised time and again in this forum. Was it really necessary to negotiate a chapter with Turkey on Monday, despite the fact that some of the minimum conditions, specifically recognition of the Ankara Protocol, have not even been dealt with yet? I wonder whether we are perhaps once again sending out the wrong signals by setting in motion a train that, 10, 12 or however many years down the track, we will still not be able to stop. The Austrian Presidency of the Council could have sent out a clearer signal in this regard, too.
Thirdly, the European Union is founded on the Member States. There is no single European people – and this goes for Mrs Wallström, too, who is now not listening – but 25 national peoples, as we are seeing at the moment with the football. And we have a European Union that is founded on the Member States and not on a majority of the population expressing their opinions in referendums. That really does need to be taken into account, otherwise this project will ultimately founder.
Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, we complain that, in spite of our successes and achievements during 50 years of European integration, the European Union has become stuck in a rut. We complain that it lacks a clear vision, that there is no agreement on what direction to take and what to do in the future. However, we should admit that these criticisms and reservations expressed by the citizens are related to the current functioning of EU politics rather than the Constitutional Treaty, whose significance has not been sufficiently explained to the public. After all, the European Constitution is a fundamental document which will allow the Union to deal with new challenges.
We are all aware that the Union cannot develop further on the basis of the existing Treaties, and not because these Treaties are ‘too restrictive’ for 25 or more Member States. These Treaties have a basic flaw in that they do not provide for the involvement of civil society either in shaping Union policies or in the decision-making process.
President Barroso, I would like to ask how many millions of signatures we would need to collect today, as part of a citizens’ initiative, in order for the Commission to hear the voice of the citizens. At the moment you are not obliged to take account of their voice, but the Constitutional Treaty would give the citizens the opportunity to set up such an initiative and one million signatures would be enough. I repeat, one million out of 457 million European Union citizens would be needed to set up such an initiative. Does this mean nothing to opponents of the Constitutional Treaty who bandy democratic slogans about so enthusiastically?
President Barroso, it is with pleasure that I heard your declaration on the Constitution today. However, these words must be backed up with actions and the most important task at the moment is to win back the trust of the citizens of Europe in the European project. We have to do this in the old Union where Europe has become very commonplace because the citizens have had it for too long and also take advantage of pro-European feeling, or rather enthusiasm, in the new Member States.
In my country, Poland, 80% of citizens want more Europe and 60% want a Constitutional Treaty. This is a good sign and I hope that during the European Summit these countries will make the right decisions, showing the way for Europe and the place of the Constitutional Treaty, so that we may overcome this impasse.
Íñigo Méndez de Vigo (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Mr President of the European Commission, you have made a good speech today and I would like to congratulate you on it. You have made a good speech, because I believe that you have managed to move people, those of us who are here and those outside of this Parliament who are listening to us. You have argued that we should not allow ourselves to indulge in Euro-pessimism and I believe that you are right.
You have also said something very important: that Europe is not in crisis. It is true. Europe is not in crisis. We must not allow ourselves to believe that. It is also the case, however, that we must make an effort to explain why the Constitutional Treaty is important to people’s lives, because many people take the view that the Constitutional Treaty has not entered into force – which is the case – but nothing has gone wrong as a result; Europe has not fallen into the sea.
Many people are therefore tempted to say that the Constitutional Treaty is not so important, since nothing has gone wrong despite it not having entered into force.
In all of the campaigns that I have taken part in, I have never heard what all of the leaders who have spoken here today have said: the Constitutional Treaty is necessary in order for Europe to function better, in order to provide the people with added value. We must make a huge educational effort to explain to the people what I have previously called ‘the cost of not having a Constitution’: why not having a Constitutional Treaty has a negative impact on their daily lives.
As Mr Rasmussen has said, explaining these things is a tough task; it is a task that requires a great intellectual effort. We must apply our grey matter, in order to explain it to the people through clear and relevant examples, but it is a necessary task.
I believe that Europe requires a huge amount of education today, but it also requires a degree of calm, a degree of political skill, and I believe that this Parliament, which has been a pioneer on many other occasions, through the Resolution by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs that we are going to approve today, indicates that direction. Through a lot of education, I believe that we will be able to rescue the ship of the Constitution, get it back afloat, and ensure that the Constitutional Treaty provides the people with added value.
Achille Occhetto (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, I believe, Mr Barroso, that, during next Friday's Summit, you must go against what was claimed in Klosterneuburg and argue that the problem is not one of extending the period of reflection on the institutional issue, but rather of making swift progress both in improving and ratifying the European Constitution and regarding policies capable of improving Europe’s image among Europeans.
In fact, if the two countries that failed to ratify the Constitution did so for reasons quite different to those regarding the constitutional text, then it is really a question of moving more quickly on practical policies capable of changing Europe’s image for the better. In order to do this, however, we need to go beyond the period of reflection on the institutional issue as quickly as possible.
The constraints that we come up against in implementing the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world are, in fact, mainly due to the intergovernmental, rather than Community, approach. There can be no single currency without common economic and social policies and without a genuine form of socio-economic governance.
We must therefore clearly state that social and economic problems are resolved by a form of institution building that is in keeping with the Community approach. If we do not want to destroy Europe, then we must state, as Mr Schulz did, that Europe needs the Constitution immediately.
Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the Euro-pessimism that President Barroso spoke about seems to be a much more contagious disease than avian flu. It is serious, because it provides a good excuse for many political leaders not to face the challenges of changing Europe. If it continues in this way, this situation will remind me more and more of the old Soviet joke from the 1970s: the Soviet economy was in stalemate and the train was not moving, so the order was given to draw the curtains, rock the carriage to and fro and pretend the train was moving at high speed.
Clearly we need a political solution, not in the form of first division and second division Europe, but with a new quality of political leadership that would be worthy of the founding fathers 50 years ago. Can we really restore trust and generate inspiration among the voters if we continue to conduct our policies from one national election to another, finding in them a good excuse not to apply the common policies?
I think people can easily differentiate between far-sighted, compassionate and courageous leadership and the petty and patronising approach of those whose main aim is to retain control of the situation. If the name of the Constitution is an obstacle, then I am prepared to change the name. We could streamline the format, but we need to retain the substance of the Constitution, otherwise we cannot successfully apply the common policies of enlarged Europe. We cannot apply the solidarity which is a guiding principle of all our efforts.
Stavros Lambrinidis (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, I shall talk about the PNR agreement with the United States, which the European Court of Justice has rejected, and about the framework decision on data protection, which unfortunately the European Council rejects every day by default.
My specific proposal is this: firstly, that if you go ahead and renew the PNR agreement on the basis of the third pillar, you only do so until 2007. Secondly, that you then negotiate with Parliament changes to this agreement which safeguard fundamental rights and that you do so by applying the passerrelle clause at long last. Thirdly, that you proceed throughout in cooperation with the European Parliament and in a serious tripartite dialogue and, fourthly, that you immediately adopt the framework decision on data protection in the third pillar.
We shall be voting on Parliament's proposal today. It is a very serious proposal and it is time you started working on it. Keep the promises of the Danish Presidency to the European Parliament and pass it because, if you do not, I worry that the European Parliament will be forced to halt other important activities, even though they require first and foremost a European law for the protection of rights.
Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Parliament has been a consistent supporter of enlargement and, in particular, the timely accession of Bulgaria and Romania. I trust, therefore, that the European Council this week will confirm its commitment to the accession date of 1 January 2007 for those countries.
As the rapporteur for Bulgaria over the past six years, I have seen at first hand the progress that has been made in transforming the economy, the political system and the administrative structures of that country. Above all there has been a change in attitudes and expectations. People want a better life and now believe that it is achievable. It is most important that we do nothing to undermine that confidence and the duty to the people of Bulgaria that we share with the Bulgarian authorities.
The resolution of Parliament makes clear that some concrete results are needed in the coming months. Those are primarily the responsibility of the Bulgarian Government, but the Commission and the Member States must do all they can to help. I know that the United Kingdom and some other countries have already provided assistance in the fight against organised crime. I would ask for a reinforcement of that effort during the next four months.
Turning to other matters, the European Union is very good at giving lessons to others, but often fails to learn lessons itself. We have heard much about the ‘period of reflection’ following the failure of the Constitution, but we seem incapable of drawing the right conclusions. The answer that we hear this morning is ‘more Europe’. I do not know where that is coming from. It is not what I hear from the people of East Anglia that I represent. They want less interference from Brussels and they want the European Union to put its House in order and to carry out a more limited range of tasks with greater efficiency.
People want more control over their own lives. They want accountable national and local government; they want security and prosperity and they want a Europe that differs from the outmoded project that unfortunately is still on the table.
Richard Corbett (PSE). – Mr President, those who claim – on one side of the House, notably – that the French and Dutch have said ‘no’ and that this whole debate must therefore come to an end and we should never again consider changing the treaties are guilty of being far too simplistic and of only wanting to hear one answer. When they say, as one of them did, ‘which part of the word ‘no’ do you not understand owing to the French and Dutch results?’, we could easily turn round and say ‘which part of the word ‘yes’ do you not understand from the 16 to 18 – if you include Romania and Bulgaria – other countries that have said ‘yes’ to this constitution?’
We are not faced with an issue of overwhelming rejection or of overwhelming acceptance, but we are facing a problem of divergence. And what do we do in the Union when there is a problem of divergence? We sit down, talk it through and try to find a solution acceptable to everyone. That is how we make progress. That is why it is right to take the time to have this period of reflection and to prolong it and look at what is possible.
It is also right to address not just the question of the text, but also the context – l’Europe des projets, the Hampton Court agenda, the issues that are close to people – and then, in due course, in a new context, we can decide what to do about the text. Make no mistake about it: we will have to decide what to do about the text. The issues that Treaty was intended to address have not disappeared. They have not vanished overnight and need solving. We will have to return to these issues, and it is quite correct to orient the period of reflection towards them.
It may be that in a year’s time and in a new context it will be possible to retain this text as it stands, or with certain additions clarifying it, or with interpretations, or with additional protocols, or by rewriting Part 3, as some have suggested. It may also be that this is not possible and it has to be broken up. The conclusion may be that we will have to live with the existing Treaties for ever more because it is now impossible to change them. However, all this will emerge in due course. Now is not the time to make that choice. Now is not the time to say that we need to rewrite the text. We will take that decision at the end of the period of reflection, and rightly so.
Margie Sudre (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, one year on from the 'no' votes in France and the Netherlands, it is high time for Europe to pull itself together and to put forward some solutions to make the most of the content of its draft European Constitution.
Our Heads of State or Government will need to discuss some key issues for our future: energy independence, immigration, the future of the Constitutional Treaty and enlargement. On each of those subjects, Europeans expect their leaders to give real answers and to have the courage to accept both the political and financial consequences of those answers. The humanitarian situation amongst the immigrants flocking to the southern shores of the EU needs to form one of Europe's highest priorities, and it calls for a joint response in terms of reception of immigrants and asylum policy. It also demonstrates the need for an in-depth re-examination of our development policy, which is evidently failing to meet the urgent needs of people in countries that we want, but are not managing, to help.
With regard to enlargement, I welcome the European Commission's wisdom in deciding to postpone the decision on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria until next October, depending on the progress achieved by each of those countries. However, the Commission also needs to show similar perceptiveness with regard to Turkey. I am very critical of the very positive signals just given to that country in the context of the accession negotiations, at a time when it still does not recognise Cyprus, one of the Members of the Union it wants to join. Europe can only be strong if it is respected, and it will only be respected if it applies the same legal rules to all.
Finally, I would like to remind you that the criterion of absorption capacity has not simply been invented by certain Member States, but is one of the Copenhagen criteria. We will be fooling the candidate countries if we lead them to believe that we are doing them a favour by allowing them to join a Union that is not in full working order. We would be deceiving both the people of the current Member States and those of the countries that are working so hard to join the European Union.
Carlos Carnero González (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, we are talking about the period of reflection and debate on the future of Europe, but given what we are discussing this morning, I believe that this a debate on the present of the European Union.
The future and the present become fused, particularly because it is essential to implement a Constitution in order to resolve the problems facing us today. In that regard, I believe that it is essential that the Commission take account of the point in our resolution calling upon it to produce a report on the cost of not having a Constitution. That is essential.
I would ask for even more: for the Commission to commit itself, Mr Barroso, to present that report to this House and to the Council immediately after the summer, in September or October, so that we can hold a debate with the citizens specifically about how, with the Constitution not in force, we can resolve issues such as illegal immigration, which has been discussed here.
We must continue with the process of ratification and eventually find a solution that can unblock it, but on the basis of this text, which is a good text: it is a text based on a consensus. I believe that that is the objective of the European Parliament’s resolution.
I have just one request for you, Mr Barroso: I have been happy to applaud you today; I can tell you quite honestly that this is the first time I have done so. If you express the same arguments outside of this House, I shall continue to do so.
Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I too agree that measures should be taken to bring the European Union closer to the citizens. I therefore support that Europe of results that the President, Mr Barroso, has mentioned today.
The failure of the referendums in France and the Netherlands did not just reflect domestic political issues, but also the fact that some citizens do not sufficiently understand or value the process of European construction.
We must increase the citizens’ faith in the Union, show them its added value, through more effective action on issues such as security, the effective control of migratory flows, job creation and so on. These are issues to which the European Council must pay the greatest possible attention.
We must also better explain how the Union operates and the objectives it pursues. A few days ago, in Aachen, Prime Minister Juncker proposed that young Europeans should visit the war cemeteries so that new generations could fully appreciate the contribution that the Union makes to peace on a continent that has been so blood-stained by past wars.
I believe that the Union should also have a place in colleges and schools. As the Chairman of my party, Mariano Rajoy, proposed a few months ago in Paris, a specific obligatory subject should be created in all colleges and schools in the Member States, which would cover the origin, the objectives and the operation of the European Union's institutions. That kind of education aimed at young people is very important.
We must also explain another great success: the enlargement processes. We must stress that the prospect of accession has been a powerful driving force in terms of the great political, economic and social transformations that have taken place in many countries, which have benefited both them and the Union.
I would like to end by referring to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, a resolution on which we shall approve today. In recent times, these countries have been making spectacular progress in many areas. They are undergoing those great transformations that I mentioned just now, and in particular I would like to stress the progress that Romania has made in areas such as the reform of the justice system and the fight against corruption.
If they continue with these reforms, I am convinced that both countries will join the Union on 1 January 2007 and I am very pleased that the next European Council will encourage them to focus their efforts on achieving that common objective.
Riitta Myller (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, we need a Constitution in order to respond to the challenges which the new millennium has brought for cooperation. A Union of almost 30 countries cannot be successfully guided by rules established in the last millennium for a Community of what was originally six countries.
A Constitutional Treaty will be a rational response to the challenges that the public have set for European cooperation. They have called for transparency in decision making, clarity in agreements and treaties, and power in matters which need to be dealt with together so that the measures taken are sufficiently effective. If our citizens are to be treated equally, each Member State must have a right and an obligation to decide independently whether to ratify the Constitution. Only then will it be time to draw conclusions on the future of the Treaty. As the next country to hold the presidency, Finland deserves our appreciation for implementing this principle.
Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I would like to make three points. The first point is that I think the speech made by Mr Barroso was excellent. Right now we are getting involved in this vicious circle of Euro-pessimism and what we need is a heavy-duty injection of Euro-optimism. We need to take a look at what we have achieved over the past 10 to 12 years and the results are overwhelming – everything from enlargement to justice and home affairs, CFSP, and, of course, the single currency. Sometimes we have a tendency to lose perspective. We must realise that the European Union is constant crisis management. We go from one little crisis to another, but I think the bigger picture is a success story.
The second point I want to make is that right now I think we are facing a new generation of what I call ‘EU whingers’ or ‘EU whiners’. They are people, usually ministers, who go into a closed room, have a discussion, clap each other on the back and say ‘great decision’. Five minutes after that, they get into the blame game, go in front of their national media and say, ‘oh no, what an awful decision the EU has just made’. You cannot talk negatively about the European Union six days a week and then go to church on Sunday and say that the EU is a great thing. Perhaps this could be the reason why the UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett does not want to see much transparency, because then people would see that some of the British positions are actually pro-European.
The final point I want to make is that we need a constitutional treaty. The problems are not going to go away and we have heard that in the debate today. We need the Charter of Fundamental Rights; we need a legal personality; we need a foreign minister; we need more qualified-majority voting and we need more codecision. So we need to fix it, and hopefully we can fix it before 2009. Deepening and widening go hand in hand. Nice is not enough.
Zsolt László Becsey (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, I would like to mention three key issues regarding the enlargement of the European Union.
The first issue is the consolidation of the current round of enlargement, that is, are we using the same standard when we decide to allow new Member States to enter the euro zone? That is, is the European Union going to ensure that the conditions for the enlargement of the Schengen area are in place by next year as far as the European Union is concerned? That is, are we going to create the Fundamental Rights Agency, which has already been adopted by the European Parliament, or are we going to sabotage it instead? These are important questions at a time when we have seen that for instance, for the first time ever, we applied a sanction against the will of a Member State in the case of Lithuania, a Member State applying for entry in the euro zone. Why is a price stability policy desirable in the case of a country in the process of catching up? Or should perhaps deflation be a term of reference in this case? Also, was the perspective of a Maastricht criterion better in 1999 in an Italy indebted to the hilt, than it would be today in Vilnius? Why are the ten new Member States lectured about inflation, through Lithuania, by those in whose countries the situation is progressively worsening, such as in the Spain of Mr Alumnia or the Luxembourg of Mr Juncker? This is rightfully branded as a disgraceful approach by none other than one of the fathers of the euro, Professor Lámfalussy. And can the esteemed Council and Commission take the strategic political decision of not recommending admission, without Parliament, who is usually so proud of its privileges? How is the same standard applied in this case?
Secondly, are we really going to wait for the assessment of the Commission in autumn, regarding the date and conditions of accession for Romania and Bulgaria, if we have already extracted this through an exchange of letters? Are we preparing to rush the accession of countries that are falling dramatically behind current Member States, and even behind the ten new Member States, as regards their economic and social indicators and the level of corruption? What kind of Europe is this going to be? What is the vision here? Will this society comply with and apply the law when it is part of the European Union? In countries where, for instance, there is no registration of the Roma or of land ownership, or where there are tens of thousands of abandoned babies? And what about the largest indigenous national minority, the millions of Hungarian speakers? Why do we not take a look, as regards this case, at our own Copenhagen statements about minorities, made in 1993, or at previous Parliament and Commission presentations, where minority rights and democracy used to have equal standing?
Thirdly, we must also address the standard and speed of individual negotiations. When are we going to admit, in the course of enlargement negotiations, that the level of preparedness and European integration of Croatia is outstanding, and that it would present fewer absorption problems than, for instance, Turkey? Without consistency and the use of the same standard, the prestige of the European Union will remain low, and it is clearly visible that by the unhurried building of the two-phase integration, it takes back everything that it has had to spend on the enlargement of the EU. This is the real, but negative item.
Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I wish I was making this speech in a Parliament based in Brussels rather than in this Chamber, since the ongoing Strasbourg circus, now exacerbated by financial scandal, brings our House into disrepute.
I welcome, of course, the fact that Bulgaria and Romania are on track to join the European Union in 2007, even if there are still issues to be resolved, such as the system – or lack of a system – for the protection of children in Romania, and the level of organised crime in Bulgaria. However, delaying their admission by one more year would serve no purpose other than to send the wrong signal to their peoples and governments.
On the vexed issue of what to do about the EU Constitution, I agree with those who say it is dead in its current format. Nevertheless, even those of us opposed in principle to a constitution, with a foreign minister, permanent president and binding charter of fundamental rights, accept there is a need for treaty adjustment in order to accommodate future enlargement beyond the Nice formula and to settle the increasing imbalance between small and large Member States in terms of voting rights in the institutions. This matter can only get worse with the proliferation of mini-States in the western Balkans – as recently seen with the independence of Montenegro – all of which are likely to become full Members in the next ten years.
I would also be in favour of retrieving the proposed powers to increase the influence of national parliaments and of more transparency in the co-legislative process in the Council of Ministers, whose current behaviour is far too secretive. That is why I particularly deplore the U-turn by the British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, which completely contradicts both the views of her Prime Minister and the general thrust of reform and transparency in the European Union. It is deeply regrettable that the British Government, unlike its Danish partner, is not cross-examined or mandated in the House of Commons before deciding on its voting position in the Council of Ministers. The whole process of framing legislation would be empowered, both in the House of Commons and for the British people, if UK ministers went before the House of Commons and were asked which way they were going to vote in the Council of Ministers and then did so in a totally transparent and open fashion. I would therefore say ‘no’ to Mrs Beckett on her views on transparency in the Council of Ministers.
Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, in view of the integration problems we are now experiencing in many EU Member States, and in view of the population trends and the huge problems we are having with illegal immigration and the associated problems of organised crime and trafficking, I welcome the fact that you want to put the focus of the forthcoming European Council on migration. We need to be quite clear about this: if we want to avoid conflicts in the European Union in the long term, we must manage the influx of economic migrants, taking particular account of the assimilation and integration capacities of our Member States. We must finally create a European asylum policy, and in this connection I would like to congratulate the Presidency of the Council, which has undertaken a great deal of preliminary work to ensure that refugees can be aided quickly, whilst at the same time preventing economic migration using asylum certificates and abuse of the asylum system.
We must also focus on combating illegal immigration and human trafficking, which, as I just said, are elements of organised crime. This cannot be solved by regularisation, as we are currently experiencing once again in Spain: regularisation produces a suction effect, with all of the dramatic results and tragedies that brings with it. What we need is a comprehensive strategy that must include the following elements: aid in the countries of origin, information campaigns via the mass media – including in the countries of origin – explaining the consequences of illegal immigration, and the establishment of a common external border protection mechanism using the visa information system, the Schengen information system and EURODAC, so that we can achieve the objective of maintaining the stability and security of the European Union over the long term.
Panayiotis Demetriou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, first of all my warmest congratulations to the Austrian Presidency on the work which it carried out and on the fact that it put the European Constitution back into the limelight during its six- month term of office.
My warmest congratulations also to the President of the Commission, Mr Barroso, on the historic speech which he gave in the European Parliament today. Mr Barroso restated the European vision today and revived our hopes for the future of Europe. Well done, Mr Barroso.
Ladies and gentlemen, globalisation has given rise to numerous challenges, numerous problems and numerous pressures in the European Union: economic pressures, political pressures, inflationary pressures and all kinds of challenges. If it is to be able to meet the challenges of globalisation, it has no choice but to 'constitutionalise' the Union. Europe cannot function as it is functioning today and be expected to be in a position to address these problems. No Member State can meet the challenges of globalisation alone. That is why those talking with schadenfreude because the Constitution is dead need to tell us how they will meet these challenges under the present circumstances.
Europe needs to enhance its credibility and face up to the problems as best it can; this will then provide the basis for supporting the Constitution and defending it to the citizens. This is our job, the job of all the institutions. The various Member States need to stop passing the buck to the European Union and, where they stand to benefit, claiming national successes.
Finally, talking about credibility, I must say that it is not in Europe's interest to negotiate with Turkey, which does not recognise one of the twenty-five Member States and is occupying European territory. It is not in Europe's interest to be lax towards this country, while we have done everything we can to be strict in our judgment of Bulgaria and Romania.
Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Mr President of the Commission, honourable Members, at the start of this debate, Mr Schulz told us that, along with the President of the Commission, Mr Leinen was one of the most important people in Europe. I can absolutely go along with that, if we add the President-in-Office of the Council to the list: it is indeed true.
This public debate that Mr Corbett wanted, and the debates that have taken place in this House over the last few months – I would remind you of the highly constructive report from Mr Voggenhuber, the discussions in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, and the discussions you have held here today – are actually taking place, and, when he says 'we must talk it through', I absolutely agree with him.
A very important debate has been held here today, and it is also going to influence the discussions of the Heads of State or Government, because it is important for Europe. The President of the Commission has very clearly stated, just as I and many of you have, that we need to walk on both legs, that we need to continue with this twin-track approach of both producing concrete results and actions for our citizens and discussing the future of Europe and the future of a Constitutional Treaty. I think this is essential, and it is a result that I will take away with me and report to the President of the Council in this form.
Mr Poettering and others have mentioned the Fundamental Rights Agency. I would just like to go into that very briefly, because it is a subject very close to my heart, and I have the impression that there are some misunderstandings in this regard. It is very much a matter of the European Union as a community of values, and as a union that defends human rights and stands up for them to the outside world, having an institution that can and does stand up for those values. We think that this human rights agency would be a worthwhile institution, and, of course, that it would not compete in any way with the Council of Europe or any other institutions. I really would ask you to take a close look at the proposals on the table, because it is precisely this competition that we are trying to exclude.
Mr Schulz also talked about human rights, about the issue of Guantánamo Bay, about shared values, and about the CIA. It goes without saying that we also need to make these shared values clear to our partners and our friends. The Council, many Member States and the President-in-Office of the Council have all made that very clear, and, of course, it will also be an important subject at the forthcoming Summit with the United States.
Mrs Frassoni and a number of others – to whom I am very grateful, because this was an important issue for the Austrian Presidency – mentioned transparency. We hope that we will be able to produce a good package at the European Council. There are indeed one or two other difficulties that we hope we will be able to overcome, for this is another topic which we agree with Parliament is very important to the people.
Mrs Frassoni also said that we have not been precise enough with regard to the relaxation of visa rules for the Balkan countries. I would like to stress once again that we do, of course, have a very precise plan for issuing a mandate and that the Council's conclusions will also state that these negotiations will be concluded within the next year. We know that this is extremely important for the countries in the Balkans.
Mr Voggenhuber, I cannot agree with you that, over the last few months, the Austrian Presidency has been holding these debates behind closed doors with experts and elites. We have made a great deal of effort. Perhaps we have not always been successful, but we have made considerable efforts to go out and talk to school children, students and the people on the streets in all kinds of formats and formations. That is very important: we have tried very hard to do that, and I am sure that future Presidencies will do the same.
Mr Galeote referred to immigration, and in this domain, too, we are trying to achieve some very real results. In future, we will also need to look into the issue of a list of safe third countries, and, of course, we also need a joint asylum policy. There are a huge number of issues on which we need to work with our partners in Europe to draft a policy that is in everyone's interests.
The issue of minorities has also been brought up, and, on that subject, let me say that this was a particularly important point that the Austrian Presidency has also tried to address.
Mrs Resetarits once again talked about Zeus and Europa. Europa was not just the lover of Zeus: she also had a family with him – they had three children. Of course this family had arguments, but, as far as we know, they lived happily together, and I think that should serve as an example to us.
If I understood Mr Ferber correctly, he said that there are 25 peoples, and he related this to the football World Cup. If I may interpret this as a suggestion that all 25 or 27 countries should, in future, still be able to compete in the European Football Championships, then I, as an Austrian, can only welcome that, because then we would finally be able to participate again.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, honourable Members, I really think that this has been one of the most interesting debates I have participated in so far at the European Parliament. Above and beyond the various points of view expressed, I have detected a real desire to push forward our European project and I have seen that there is a real interest in rallying together, in uniting: uniting the institutions, and also, because we need their support, uniting the Member States and the citizens of Europe.
We need to unite the three institutions because, let us be quite clear about this, we need all three institutions: Parliament, the Commission and the Council. If the Constitutional Treaty had depended solely on the European Parliament and the Commission, it would already be in place, because the Commission adopted it unanimously and a very large majority of the European Parliament supported it. However, we also need to be able to count on all the Member States, and, at the moment, not all of the Member States are with us. That is why, if we really want to deal with this issue, we need to achieve a blend of ambition and realism. We need to rally together all the Member States.
That being the case, as Mr Rasmussen and others have already said, and as Mrs Wallström reminded us, it is not now enough, if we want Europe to make progress, to ask our diplomats to hold a meeting in a beautiful location to find the solution. These days, we need to involve the citizens. Thinking back to the past, I sometimes wonder whether the single market or the single currency, all the progress we have made, could ever have been achieved if we had had a referendum at each stage.
These days, if we want to move Europe forward, we need to do it with our citizens, which, it is true, is why things are much more complicated now. True, it is much more difficult now, and it is going to take time, but it is absolutely essential: if we want Europe to make progress, we must make the effort to get all Europeans involved, and, to do that, we need to unite the European camp. That is why I made this comment in my introductory remarks: we must not add to the traditional Euroscepticism of those who never wanted Europe the Euro-pessimism of those who want to move Europe forwards.
True, the various big European political families may express differing positions, but as soon as we agree on the need to push forward with our European project, we must be able to unite our camp to send a positive, confident message. Those of us in this House today do not simply have the job of providing a commentary: of course, we can, and indeed must, analyse the situation, but the job of a leader, of a political representative, is to inspire confidence and hope. That is why I think it is essential to have a programme that is able to unite the people around real results, and around projects with the aim of consolidating the great European project.
We could point to many of these results, and I am delighted at the energy with which the Austrian Presidency is working to achieve concrete results. Indeed, we must say quite clearly that the Member States, who want aims, who want objectives, also need to give us the resources.
Very often, all the Member States agree, one day, that we need to do more at European level in terms of security and justice. All the Member States tell us we need to do more to combat illegal immigration and to manage legal immigration. All the Member States say we need greater cooperation. But then, when the Commission suggests transferring certain competences regarding justice and the police from the third pillar to the first, I still see no unanimity from the Member States concerning this project and the resources necessary to run it properly.
The same applies to energy: today, there is consensus that we need a common energy policy, and a common strategy, but we need the resources to develop this common strategy. That is why, as Mr Goebbels, Mrs Frassoni and others have said, it is important to achieve concrete results in terms of energy efficiency and to have programmes for renewable energy, so that we can really translate the objectives from the Green Paper for safe and competitive sustainable energy into practice.
The same applies to research. One of the most important things we learned at the Hampton Court Summit was, amongst other things, that we need to do more at European level in terms of research and development. That is why we put forward the idea of the European Institute of Technology as a flagship project to mobilise our efforts, and I hope that the Member States, who are in agreement on the objectives, will also be able to give us the resources to achieve them.
I therefore think, Mr President, honourable Members, that the European Council needs to reach agreement on the path to go down. We must not simply extend the period of reflection, but move into a commitment period consisting in defining specific results for the near future in order to demonstrate the added value of Europe to our citizens, and at the same time to show them, as Mr Leinen, Mrs Méndez de Vigo and others have said, what it costs us not to have an institutional solution.
We need an institutional solution, and that touches on the issue of enlargement, because the European debate very often sets those who favour enlargement against those who favour deepening. I continue to believe, as Mr Juncker and others have said, that we need both. In fact, enlargement is one of the fundamental reasons for deepening, one of the fundamental reasons that justify institutional reform: an enlarged Europe requires institutional reform as a matter of greater and greater urgency.
The right answer to our current difficulties is not to divide Europe into first division countries and second division ones, but, on the contrary, to try to rally all the Member States together: both those who are already part of the enlarged Europe and those who are going to join us shortly. In this connection, I would also point out that we expect the next European Council to give a clear signal of its commitment to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on 1 January 2007 if those countries meet all the conditions we have set them, and which they have now been working for months to achieve. I hope that the Council will do that.
Finally, as many of you, including Mr Stubb, have said, we need to keep things in perspective. I know that negative nostalgia is currently in fashion: oh, how wonderful Europe was 10 or 20 years ago. But, honestly, which Europe are we talking about? Was it really better 20 years ago, when large parts of our continent were not free, when much of our continent was divided by regimes that were against freedom and democracy?
Was it really better 10 years ago, when the Balkans were the scene of bloody massacres? Are the Balkans not part of our Europe, too? Do we not want to extend the area of freedom and democracy to the Europeans in the Balkans? That is why I do not share the depression or the pessimism: I think that, if you keep things in perspective, you will understand that Europe needs to move forward. It is true that Europe has its problems, and that the issue of the institutions is a considerable difficulty, but we must not wallow in this negativity, scepticism and cynicism that is currently so fashionable. We need to unite around common values, such as, I would emphasise, law. Some of you mentioned Guantánamo, and, indeed, we must say quite clearly that absolutely nothing justifies having, as part of the fight against terrorism, a vacuum in terms of respect for human rights. In such cases, Europe must stand up for its values and its convictions.
So, let us be proud of Europe. Our partners in Latin America ask us: how did you pull it off? We, too, are trying to advance regional integration – how did Europe manage it? When we talk to our partners in Russia, China, India and elsewhere, they show great respect for an enlarged, powerful Europe. Let us be proud of Europe. Let us be proud of our values, and I think that, in showing this confidence and this spirit of togetherness, those of us who truly believe in European values will be in a position to resolve our current difficulties and to make progress with our project for Europe: a competitive, open Europe, but also a Europe founded on the idea of solidarity, a Europe that wants to master globalisation, not suffer it. That is our great project for Europe.
President. I have received seven motions for resolutions(1) tabled to wind up the debate under Rules 103(2) and 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.
The debate is closed.
The vote will take place today at 12.30.
Written statements (Rule 142)
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL). – (PT) The statements delivered by the Commission and the Council are evidence that the next European Council will still fail to implement the much-needed measures to change what Mr Barroso has referred to as Europe’s ‘crisis culture’, and that they do not want to understand the causes of the criticisms voiced by citizens of the Member States.
They sidestep the fact that the main reason for people's discontent is the current social crisis, which is dealt with only marginally in the proposed Council conclusions and postponed until a report is submitted by March 2007. The Council’s sole interest is to press ahead with liberalisations, the directive on completing the internal market in services and the common energy policy.
The main priority is the constitutional issue, which the conclusions document also omits, but which was the central – and virtually the only – theme of the speech given by the President of the Commission. He stressed that the Commission believes we stand to lose by not moving the process forward, overlooking the fact that the democratic process led to the rejection of the European Constitution by the people of France and the Netherlands, which is something that the Community's institutions should respect.
By announcing new forms of propaganda, including the proposed Declaration on Political Europe, to be submitted next year, which all of the Community's institutions are to sign, the Council is following a path that fails to address existing problems.
Filip Kaczmarek (PPE-DE). – (PL) The future of Europe is a very important matter. It is not true that a good European must be a federalist. We can be good Europeans without being enthusiastic about the Constitutional Treaty. Should the period of reflection be extended? It certainly should, although we ought to make sure that this period is really used for reflection rather than for pleas, wishful thinking or creating the false impression that there is no alternative to the Treaty.
An extended period of reflection should be used to consider what Europeans really want, how a balance can be achieved between the large and the small Member States, between the new and old Member States, between richer and poorer regions, between the desire to be competitive and the dogma of the European social model. This is not an easy task. I am concerned that we will not be able to resolve these issues if we limit our reflections to the existing text of the Constitutional Treaty. It is also important to be honest with Europeans. Are we sure they will accept European Union enlargement achieved at the cost of strengthening the political dominance of the largest states of the European Union? Did all current EU Member States take part in drawing up the Constitutional Treaty on equal terms?
A lot has been said about Europe needing to be closer to its citizens, that it should be easier for them to understand. I hope that this wish also applies to the debate on the European Constitution.
Jules Maaten (ALDE). – (NL) The European Union’s Constitutional Treaty projected ambitions which the Union has not been able to realise to date. The EU has failed in the strategy which was supposed to turn Europe into the world’s most competitive knowledge economy, in the cooperation to combat bird flu and in the implementation of common foreign policy. It is quite understandable that the people of Europe are questioning our aspiration of a fully-fledged Constitution if we cannot even manage to make sound agreements in all those other areas, or if we contravene the agreements that are in place, such as the Stability Pact.
We should be more modest. Let us first carry out the institutional reforms that are really necessary. Those changes, described in Chapter 1 of the Constitutional Treaty of 2004, would then have the character of an ordinary treaty and would obviate the need for a referendum in each Member State.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union must also become a treaty document in time. At the moment, it gives the current draft treaty its constitutional overtones precisely where the Union is not ready for them. I personally would have liked to have seen the direct election of the President of the European Commission included. In that way, though, we would at any rate solve the most urgent problems and support both the European Parliament and the national parliaments.