President. The next item is the Council Statement on the presentation of the programme of the Finnish Presidency.
We welcome the Prime Minister of Finland and his Secretary of State for European Affairs, as well as the President of the Commission.
Mr Vanhanen has the floor first, on behalf of the Council.
Matti Vanhanen, President-in-office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, Mr President and Madam Vice-President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, honourable guests, I warmly thank you for this opportunity to come and discuss the priorities and main objectives of the Finnish Presidency with the European Parliament. It is an exacting task to discharge the responsibilities of the Presidency in the European Union, but at the same time it is a great honour and privilege, and Finland welcomes the challenge.
As the country to hold the Presidency, our collaboration with the European Parliament has got off to a good start. I would like to thank the President and all the other Members of the European Parliament who attended the meeting between the Finnish Government and Parliament in Helsinki. Furthermore, several parliamentary committees and political groups have visited Finland and engaged in productive discussions regarding the aims of our Presidency.
Ever since Finland joined the EU it has supported efforts to make the work of the Union’s institutions more effective and improve the close cooperation that exists between them. As the country to hold the Presidency, we will work in close and effective cooperation with the European Parliament. By that I do not just refer to Parliament’s role in the codecision procedure as a legislator on an equal footing with the Council, but in a wider context, promoting the key aims of the Union.
Finland’s own national parliament, the Eduskunta, is celebrating a special anniversary. This year it is 100 years since the unicameral parliament was founded and universal suffrage established. Everyone, men and women alike, at the same time had the right to vote and the right to stand for election. We are proud of this landmark in the history of our democracy.
In Finland, the parliament is closely involved in the handling of EU affairs, and it has a lot of influence. Perhaps this experience that we have of fruitful cooperation with our parliament has in turn made it so natural for us Finns to engage in close cooperation with the European Parliament too. There is no overlap in the work of the European Parliament and that of the national parliaments: each has its own role to play in Union affairs. Basically, however, they have the same fundamental mission: to strengthen democracy in the Union.
During its Presidency, Finland will endeavour to persuade the Union to look outwards and ahead. We must reflect on what sort of a Union we want to see 10 to 20 years from now, and how that is to be achieved. As Europeans, we need to identify the historical forces of change in our time, and respond to and embrace them. It is a major challenge for the EU to face up to the reality of globalisation.
The world that surrounds the Union is changing and if we are not careful we will lag further and further behind. That would be disastrous, above all for the future of our children and future generations. For their sake, Europe must stop looking inwards and consider its position in the global context in the longer term. The world around us will not wait. Our future requires us to take concrete action now, even though its effects will only be visible later on.
In recent years participation in decision-making in the Union has left something to be desired and the public are more critical about that than before. I nevertheless dismiss the pessimistic talk of a crisis in the Union; instead, I believe that the problems we have at present can be overcome. The agreement reached on the Financial Framework and progress with the Services Directive are examples of the Union being able to take important decisions when the political will is there. I believe that it is there in all the Union’s institutions.
The European Union is a community of values, which exists for the people. That is why its reduced legitimacy and its diminished justification and credibility in the eyes of the people must be taken seriously.
This perception that the Union’s legitimacy is suffering is partly due to the fact that the public does not know what the Union does for them. Many issues that have a real impact on people’s lives, such as the right to reside, work and study anywhere in the EU, are taken as a matter of course. People forget that they are possible precisely on account of the Union.
Lack of information, however, does not explain everything: the Union has also to be able to improve the way it does things. It needs to deliver results, the effects of which the people can see in their own lives.
The Union’s basic premise, peace and stability in Europe, is still relevant. I was personally reminded of that on my trip to Croatia a few weeks ago: they want to join the Union so that they and their children will never again need to witness another war.
Many other people, who have lived their whole lives in peace, tend, however, to take peace and stability for granted. As a result, that no longer seems enough on its own to give the Union legitimacy. As many of you have often said, the Union must be able to demonstrate the benefits it offers to its citizens in other ways too, and more tangibly.
The best way to demonstrate the necessity of the Union is to deal with its basic tasks effectively, especially its legislative work. That we can and must do right away on the basis of the existing Treaties. Europe cannot wait around for new rules on decision-making: it needs to start improving the way it functions straight away. The Union needs to show that it can achieve results that impact on human lives and not just quarrel about institutional matters.
Improved effectiveness will mean that bold decisions will need to be taken by Europe’s leaders and decision-makers. We cannot just think about the here and now, or future elections; we have to think about the interests of future generations. That is why decisions also need to be taken which will perhaps be painful now, but which will help shape the future. There must also be a willingness to compromise on national points of view and consider Europe as a whole.
The Union must focus on the essential, and work effectively for it. That means the sort of action that results in added value compared to what the Member States could do alone. This added value can be achieved in the areas of welfare, security and freedom.
If we are to realise these aims we need to start with the right approach. Transparency is essential: our citizens need to know how the decisions that affect them are made. The growing political debate in Europe is in the interests of everyone. You also have a crucial role to play in this.
I am pleased that we in the European Council decided to increase the transparency of Council sittings. Finland, as the country to hold the Presidency, will implement comprehensively the principles adopted by the European Council to increase the transparency of the Council’s work.
Finland will aim to contribute to the issue of transparency in other ways too, in all its practical work and activities. We shall aim to ensure that all essential information is available at our EU Presidency website as quickly as possible. Sometimes practical solutions like this do more to provide genuine access to information than mere political statements.
During its Presidency, Finland will steer its resources towards better regulation, that is to say, quality of legislation, and attention to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. This will not merely be a case of pruning legislation. In the European Union we need new legislation, but we must keep existing legislation up-to-date. This way the Union can influence and react dynamically to the changes in the world around it. In this we support the work of the Commission.
The Presidency will invest time and effort in ensuring that decision-making takes careful account of the economic, social and environmental effects of legislative proposals. Our goal will also be to expedite the implementation of Commission proposals that aim to simplify and update legislation.
The work of the Council will be based on the Annual Work Programme for 2006, which we drafted together with Austria. Cooperation between successive Presidencies is very important for continuity. With Austria it has gone well, and we intend to continue the cooperation in just the same positive spirit with Germany, which succeeds us.
The Finnish Presidency is committed to working through the Union agenda and all the issues on it effectively, efficiently and impartially. I shall briefly mention here the issues that the Finnish Presidency intends to highlight in particular, but that does not mean that we would not attend to other matters just as diligently. There is need for progress in all sectors.
Finland wants to promote the debate on the Union’s future. Connected with this debate are the very real issues of the future of the Union’s Constitutional Treaty and EU enlargement.
I am pleased that the European Council decided in June that, with regard to the Constitutional Treaty, it was time to move on from mere reflection to a more proactive stage. This twin-track approach is the right one: we will improve the way the Union functions in line with the current Treaties, whilst at the same time we start to ponder the future of the Constitutional Treaty. During its Presidency, Finland will start consultations relating to the future of the Constitutional Treaty. These consultations with the Member States and EU institutions will form the basis of a report to be produced during the first half of 2007, when Germany has the Presidency.
I am convinced that the Treaty negotiated with the Member States is essential for an expanding Union. In Finland the Government presented a proposal on the ratification of the Treaty to the Finnish Parliament at the start of June, and Parliament will deliberate on the matter in its autumn session. In this way, Finland is adopting a position on the negotiated Treaty.
Union enlargement is one of the key issues for the Finnish Presidency. I am personally convinced that the enlargement of the Union has been a success story. Not only is enlargement a crucial tool for strengthening stability and democracy, it is also one of Europe’s strategic responses to the challenges of globalisation. Recent analyses show that the latest round of enlargement was of clear benefit to both the new and the old Member States.
In June the European Council held an important debate on the Union’s absorption capacity. I am very pleased that this was not set as a new accession criterion. No new accession criteria should be set for applicant countries, but at the same time the existing criteria must be adhered to unconditionally. The bottom line is that the Union should remain an open Community. European states that meet the membership criteria should be able to join.
During our Presidency a decision will be taken on the accession date for Romania and Bulgaria. Membership negotiations with Turkey and Croatia will also be taken forward on the basis of the progress they have made and the Commission reports.
The Finnish Presidency will also support the European Perspective of the Western Balkans. The current year will in many ways be crucial for the future of the Western Balkans. The process concerning the status of Kosovo is likely to reach a conclusive phase in the autumn. The Presidency hopes that the parties will achieve results in the exacting negotiations entered into under Martti Ahtisaari by the end of the year.
A vital area during the Finnish Presidency will be the competitiveness of the Union and its Member States and their success in global competition. These we will make efforts to address over a broad spectrum during our Presidency in the various formations of the Council.
A fundamental question is where Europe will find the foundations for economic growth. Finland’s answer is that it will be found in such areas as innovation, energy solutions, the quality of work and productivity, openness in global trade, immigration and a competent social security system.
It is the Member States which have the principal responsibility for competitiveness. The onus is on them. The Union must have its own part to play too. Finland will strive to achieve results with regard to the Seventh Framework Programme for research. The same goes for the regulation on chemicals, REACH, the Services Directive, the Working Time Directive and the regulation on international roaming.
We want to make headway in developing a wide-ranging innovation policy. In Council legislation work and at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government in Lahti we will focus on initiatives designed to create a favourable environment for generating innovation and adopting it effectively. We are talking about a demand-driven innovation policy. The Heads of State and Government at Lahti can expedite the necessary decision-making process.
If there is to be a wide-ranging innovation policy there will have to be more effective cooperation and decision-making in the Union, for example, in standardisation, in the protection of intellectual property, and in the development of the financial markets. It will be just as important to add momentum to student and researcher mobility, enhance cooperation between universities and expedite the creation of European centres of excellence. I would also like to stress how important the positive effect of competition resulting from an open global economy is on innovation.
Europe needs to boost the mobility of its intellectual and material resources. The cornerstone of innovation policy is the Union’s internal market and its further development.
The obstacles to an internal market that functions effectively must be removed, so that the benefits of economic integration can be fully felt. The internal market is the very foundation of the EU. This should not be forgotten. The market in services is of major importance in this, and it is excellent that we are nearing a settlement on the Services Directive. The role of the European Parliament has been crucial. I hope that the directive can be finally adopted immediately at second reading in the European Parliament.
External relations regarding energy are also on the agenda at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government in Lahti. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has been invited to the dinner that takes place after the meeting, where he and EU leaders will have an opportunity for some informal discussions.
Europe’s economic success depends very much on securing a reliable supply of energy at a reasonable price. All Member States are affected by the challenges of rising energy prices, reliability of supply and climate change. Energy policy choices are largely national affairs. The European Union, however, needs common energy policy guidelines, and, in particular, a coherent policy on external relations with regard to energy. During the Finnish Presidency we want to promote the strategic debate on how we need to make our objectives on energy policy visible in the Union’s external relations.
Energy consumption and the choice of energy sources are closely related to the most serious threat to the environment of our time, climate change. With regard to climate policy, it is especially important to promote the discussions on the development of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change after 2012. The Finnish Presidency will try internationally to promote discussion that could result in the EU’s objective of establishing an ambitious regime for climate change that covers all major countries. A comprehensive approach would not only work to promote a response to the climate challenge which is as effective as possible but would protect EU competitiveness.
Both these issues, energy and climate change, will be high on the agenda at summits with third countries during the Finnish Presidency, including the 10th ASEM Summit between the EU and Asian countries, to take place in Helsinki.
I am well aware that millions of Europeans fear global competition and that, as a result, they also oppose many changes. This fear was in evidence in the debate on the Services Directive, for example. It needs to be taken seriously. I would stress that we should not try and boost competitiveness in Europe no matter what the cost and regardless of the consequences. There needs to be a balance between reform, social security and environmental sustainability. Frequently, however, new working methods and modern technology benefit both economic growth and social welfare, and reduce emissions into the environment.
To preserve Europe’s welfare societies we will need to boost competitiveness, reduce unemployment, and improve labour productivity. The results are to be achieved through close cooperation with the social partners. A new balance between flexibility and security is the goal here. Finland will therefore host an extraordinary social summit just prior to the Lahti meeting of Heads of State and Government, where these issues will be discussed.
The Union’s external relations are linked to the economy, as its external action is based on its economic strength. We are an attractive trading partner, and that means that we have influence. The EU has become a global actor, which cannot afford to pause to reflect when dealing with external affairs.
During the Finnish Presidency, the EU’s international role will be consolidated and the coherence in the way it acts and functions will be reinforced. The Union has a far more comprehensive range of tools at its disposal than many other global players. They must be used with consistency, whether it is regarding policy on external relations, trade, development cooperation or human rights. The voice of the Union will only be heard around the world as one of unity if the Union is united.
We intend to develop the Union’s crisis management further. Rapid deployment troops must be fully ready to respond by the start of 2007. Coordination of civil and military crisis management will continue.
EU relations with Russia and the Northern Dimension will be priority areas during the Finnish Presidency. The Western Balkans, transatlantic relations and Asia will also be high on the agenda.
EU-Russian relations will not just be limited to the issues of trade and energy: the aim is for a broad-based partnership, in which European values and global interests unite us. The goal will be Russia’s ever closer involvement in democratic European cooperation in the various sectors of society. For that we need more dialogue between the EU countries and Russia, as well as student exchanges, cultural collaborations, and the active involvement of civil society.
During the Finnish Presidency there will be discussions regarding the new framework for the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which expires at the end of next year. Regarding the Northern Dimension, we have now come a long way: the political framework agreement is to be signed in the autumn. The development of the Northern Dimension is also of value in respect of other forms of cooperation in the Baltic region.
In addition to all this, we will obviously devote our efforts to the crises in the Middle East and other regions. We are very concerned about the situation in the Palestinian territories, on which important separate talks are being held today. In external relations the unexpected is the rule rather than the exception. Finland is also ready to take its presidential responsibilities seriously should the unexpected occur.
During the Finnish Presidency, a thorough political evaluation will be carried out on the progress achieved in the area of freedom, security and justice. We need concrete action, effective decision-making and the rigid implementation nationally of the decisions that have already been taken. In 1999 the Tampere Summit showed the way for the ambitious and democratic development of justice and home affairs. Now, in 2006, the assessment of the Hague Programme will provide an opportunity actively to push ahead with European cooperation in this area.
The public expect effective action on the part of the European Union in the fight against international criminality, people trafficking and terrorism. During the Finnish Presidency the political will of the Member States to commit to more effective decision-making, especially in the area of policing and crime, will be put to the test. The work can be improved if the Member States are ready to switch to a system of qualified majority decisions and communitisation in this area. The most recent European Council called on us to consider this in conjunction with the Commission.
I would like to emphasise that cooperation on policing and crime is not just a way of scoring points. We do not intend to get the Constitutional Treaty through by the backdoor, because the changes can be implemented on the basis of the Treaty of Nice.
Finland would also like to endorse the implementation of the principle of mutual recognition in judicial cooperation. If judgments and decisions by the legal authorities in another Member State are implemented as they stand, this can be a very real way of boosting the efficiency of large-scale, cross-border criminal investigations and speeding up legal proceedings. A good example of this is the European arrest warrant, which has resulted in shortening the time it has taken to extradite suspects from more than six months to as little as just one day.
Recent events, such as those in the Canary Islands and Malta, have once again made illegal immigration headline news. We need to take a thorough look at the range of options that the Union has, including agreement on common policies on legal immigration. More effective border control is just one part of the solution, albeit an important one. The importance of cooperation with the countries of origin and transit involved in illegal immigration cannot be overstated. We need to ensure that the Union’s common asylum system is in place by 2010. The Union must be able to guarantee protection to those who need it, with reference to comparable procedures and legislation. Attention also needs to be paid to the external dimension of questions relating to migration and partnership with our neighbours.
As I said at the beginning, cooperation between the institutions at both European and national level must be developed further. Today I would like to thank you in particular for this opportunity to present the priorities of the Finnish Presidency and discuss with you how they may be promoted. I await your comments with interest both today and at any time in the future, in this plenary and in other contexts.
The debate on Europe’s development is an important one, regardless of the political differences. The leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament, for example at the public meeting in Helsinki at the start of June, have demonstrated the will and ability to move forward with the European agenda. We in Finland too are used to engaging in productive cross-party political cooperation. It is also a natural thing to do at European level.
I hope that working together, as we will be during the next six months, will produce the best possible results. I look forward to being here again in the European Parliament in connection with the summits that are to be held during the Finnish Presidency.
We live in a time of enormous challenges. The Union needs to look to the future, boldly embrace reform, and demonstrate the political will needed to develop Europe. I believe that in many cases the right answer is more Europe, not less.
As it is about to begin, this Presidency has already been described as a sort of transitional phase. It would deal with the day-to-day business and prepare for a time when the preconditions for tackling the Union’s major issues are close at hand. It needs to be said very clearly, however, that, although the European Union might be in something of a wait-and-see mood, the rest of the world around us is not going to come to a halt. It would be the wrong way to treat Europe’s future generations if we were to close our eyes to the historic challenges we face and just wait around for a better time to come. That time is here and now.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. Mr President, I am delighted that, after the excellent Austrian Presidency, we can now work in tandem with the Finns. In Helsinki a few days ago, Prime Minister Vanhanen and I agreed that our two teams should work as one. Let us join efforts between the Presidency, the Commission and Parliament. Europe needs the clear, dynamic harmony which Finland brings.
I welcome the presentation by the Prime Minister, Mr Vanhanen. He has shown that the next six months present an opportunity to demonstrate what we mean when we talk about a Europe of results, to deliver on important dossiers of concern to our citizens, to move towards the next stage in the constitutional question, to steer the discussion on enlargement. In short, to follow the twin-track approach which I outlined to this House last month – an approach that was endorsed by the European Council – to move from a period of reflection to a period of engagement.
Let me pick up just some of the themes raised by Prime Minister Vanhanen.
I shall start with a simple, important point concerning enlargement. It is one of the most successful policies of the European Union, an extraordinary achievement in exporting freedom and opportunity across our continent. Many of us here today have benefited from this policy. We should be proud of our enlargement policy. I was very pleased that the last European Council reaffirmed that we will honour existing commitments.
However, on enlargement, as on so much of European policy-making, there is a popular debate with which we must engage. I welcome that debate. I want that debate. It is important to show that Europe does not enlarge by default, that enlargement is a conscious choice that is of benefit to all, that far from being a negative factor, an enlarged Europe is a precondition for a powerful Europe, for a Europe that really counts in the world.
That is why this autumn the Commission will report on the enlargement process as a whole, to set up the debate at the December European Council. This will include the analysis of the capacity of an enlarged Europe to function properly. This will be a serious, rigorous exercise. Nothing else will satisfy the public demand for more certainty and confidence.
We must take the same serious and correct approach to Turkey. I welcome the fact that negotiations are under way. It will be a long road, sometimes a very bumpy one. What matters is that we are open, honest and fair. Turkey must fulfil its commitments, just as the European Union must fulfil its commitments. Turkey’s commitments include respect for the Ankara Protocol.
Each Presidency brings its own particular expertise to the European Union. In Finland’s case it also brings a deep knowledge of and cooperation with its neighbours, including Russia.
I strongly support the emphasis placed by the Presidency on the relationship with Russia. Earlier this week the Commission adopted a recommendation for a comprehensive agreement that we hope will bring – because we believe it is in our interests as well as Russia’s – a new quality to the European Union’s relations with Russia, building on the existing partnership and cooperation agreement. We are proposing to move towards a free trade area to be completed once Russia accedes to the WTO. At the same time, we propose a partnership approach for energy, based on mutual interests and agreed principles.
Next week Prime Minister Vanhanen and I will travel to St Petersburg for the G8 Summit to determine, I hope, a new framework for the global energy challenges which require a global response. For energy, as for climate change, we need this global response. We will follow this up in turn at the October and December European summits. It is clear that on Russia – as on so many external issues – Europe has greater power when it works in a united and coherent way, and I hope the Member States will approach this issue precisely in that way.
The Commission looks forward to the Finnish Presidency taking forward the negotiations on the next generation of Northern Dimension partnerships. The ultimate result should be a shared policy with common ownership by all players, including Russia. The Northern Dimension will become a permanent forum on northern issues and concerns. In this context, the Commission has taken good note of this Parliament’s aspiration to establish a parliamentary forum.
The European economy is picking up pace. This is good news and we should build on it. I welcome the Finnish Presidency’s intention to drive forward the new Lisbon Strategy and to focus on research, innovation and education – the knowledge triangle. In this area, as well as in others, we must move from reflection to engagement, to real delivery. Political support must now be translated into concrete actions which create a more innovative climate in Europe.
My Commission will prepare a short paper on innovation to prepare for the Lahti informal summit. We must promote the European Research Area, including the European Institute of Technology, which should be a flagship project and symbol of the knowledge-based European economy. We must accelerate the drive to ensure open and interoperable standards and promote those standards worldwide. We must promote effective mechanisms – like venture capital – to finance innovation by European companies, having in mind also small and medium-sized companies.
Last week the Commission adopted proposals for an ambitious programme for increased security and more efficient justice for Europe’s citizens in a way that respects and protects their rights. This is a key feature of our Europe of Results agenda. I share the Finnish Presidency’s determination to move this dossier forward. The European Union will return to Tampere for the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council in September, to deepen European integration in this crucial area.
The case for deeper and more dynamic European action is clear: against those who plot against our values, freedom and democracy; against those who traffic in human beings, especially women and children; against illegal migration and those who exploit people in the workplace. We should not wait for the next tragedy in order to advance European integration in these areas: we must act now to prevent it.
We must implement better what already exists. For example, everybody agrees that sexual exploitation of children is a repugnant crime, yet only five countries have transposed the framework directive. Everybody agrees on the need to act against terrorism and organised crime, yet several Member States have not transposed effectively key legislation, such as the framework decision on terrorism.
To achieve our goals, we must improve our procedures. It is not coherent to proclaim the ends – on the fight against crime, terrorism, illegal immigration – but not provide the means.
The Commission believes the Community method, including proper European democratic scrutiny by this Parliament, should be spread to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and legal migration. That is what we said in our Citizens’ Agenda paper of 10 May. We are therefore now proposing to use the existing Treaty articles to make this change. The Commission is opening the interinstitutional debate and based on the results of that debate we will present formal proposals. I very much welcome the clear remarks made just now by Prime Minister Vanhanen.
We know there are political sensitivities, and we are ready to address those political sensitivities, but our procedures must catch up with reality.
Any step we take to improve our cooperation in security and justice matters must be matched with an extended protection of the individual citizen’s human and civic rights. This is for us a question of principle.
Law is the source of strength of the European Union, not intergovernmental backroom deals outside Parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review. That is why I also welcome the commitment of the Finnish Presidency to everything associated with the transparency agenda. Transparency, subsidiarity, better regulation should not be seen, as sometimes they are seen, as just technical matters; they are political matters. It is the democratic accountability agenda of our Union and we, the European Commission, stand ready to move forward on all those issues – transparency, better regulation and real subsidiarity – because this is a question of democratic accountability.
I have picked out only a few of the priorities of the Finnish Presidency. There are other priorities we fully share, including matters of immediate concern such as the deadlock in the Doha trade round.
The last few presidencies have helped the European Union resolve internal problems or lay the path towards their resolution. Now we need a change of gear from reflection to engagement, to a Europe which is looking forwards and outwards.
I welcome this. An open Europe, a more self confident Europe, a forward-looking Europe is what we need. Let us renew our energies to engage more deeply, more coherently and more effectively with the world around us. By exporting our values, by promoting our interests in the world, we can strengthen our identity and confidence. I look forward to doing just that in the next six months with the Finnish Presidency and with Prime Minister Vanhanen.
Hans-Gert Poettering, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, the world is going crazy about football, but Europe has already won. The world champion will be from the European Union, and the four best teams come from its Member States. The President of the Commission has just been talking about self-confidence.
So let me say that self-confidence is what we should have – but without being cocky. Peaceful competition – which is what the footballers are now teaching us about – is a wonderful thing, and that peaceful competition and fair play are what we need in Europe and throughout the world. If we take them as the basis for our actions, we will be successful. Who better to embody that truth than Finland?
Mr Vanhanen, the meeting we group chairmen had with you in Helsinki was a good one, being effective, professional, transparent and unspectacular, for it is generally the case that failure is the lot of those who announce – or seek – something spectacular, for they cannot come up with what they promised.
Europe is like a chain; so, too, are the presidencies. We have had an Austrian Presidency; the Presidency is now held by the Finns. After them will come German, Portuguese, Slovenian and then French Presidencies. Every link in this chain must be strong. It is when this continuity is present that all presidencies are successful. Experience shows that it is not just the presidencies held by the so-called big countries that are successful, but, very often, on the contrary, the smaller countries were. We wish the Finns much success and are right behind you.
It is on 25 March 2007 that we will be commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, and this date falls within the German Presidency rather than the Finnish. We very much welcome the Commission’s proposal that there should be a joint statement by the European Council, the Commission and Parliament. Our group proposes that work on preparing the substance of this statement and the organisational aspects of it should begin under the Finnish Presidency, and we propose that a working group be set up to deal with the preparations at the political level. While the next presidency must of course be involved in this, the work must be started now, under the Finnish Presidency.
It is not only the Summit that is to be held on 25 March, important though that of course is, and in respect of which the German Federal Chancellor has extended an invitation to Berlin, but there is also some sort of event to be staged in Rome, where the Treaties of Rome were signed fifty years ago, and I am given to understand that the Catholic Church wants to organise something.
(Interruption by Mr Cohn-Bendit)
I would be very glad, my good Mr Cohn-Bendit, if the Greens, with whom we are in friendly competition where the unification of Europe is concerned, were to get involved in the same way as business and the trade unions are, for this Europe is something in which we all share, and is not the property of any one political family; it is for that reason that everyone should get involved.
(Applause and interruption by Mr Schulz)
When Mr Schulz comes to make his speech, he will tell us all about how the Greens should behave. I am always reticent about giving advice and do not want to use my speaking time to answer Mr Schulz’ interjections.
Something that you, Mr President of the European Council, will have to address is the relationship with Russia. While that is something that we, of course, very much welcome, we also argue that we need Russia to be a solid, stable, and – it is to be hoped – democratic partner. It has to be said, though, that we have to stop making it a matter of policy to give the Russians hugs and pats on the shoulder; while we say ‘yes’ to shared interests, including in energy supply, we also have to tell the Russians that human rights have to be guaranteed. A few days ago, I had a visit from the lawyer acting for the industrialist Mr Khodorkovsky. The way in which this man is being treated in Russian jails is quite unacceptable, and there are many other examples of this sort of thing. Where these things are concerned, we have to make our voices heard.
Mr President of the European Council, the President of the Finnish Parliament, Mr Lipponen, told the conference of parliamentarians that we, the Austrian Presidency, and the Commission organised in Brussels, that there is also to be a conference of Members of this House and members of the national parliaments. This is something of which we are very much in favour, believing as we do that we in this House and the national parliaments must work much more closely together. If we do this, dismantle certain prejudices that exist, and work together on the European project, then success will be ours. On behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I wish your Presidency much success. Where our shared future in Europe and in the world are at stake, we will be right behind you.
Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in order to pay tribute to the Italian football team, I shall begin my speech in Italian.
(DE) Mr President, you see before you an unhappy German group chairman, but a happy socialist one. Most of my colleagues from Italy are not here this morning. Their absence is excusable.
In his speech, Mr Vanhanen said that ‘we need more Europe', and he was right, for the things your presidency has chosen as the headings for the chapters in its programme – such things as the challenge of globalisation, the new Lisbon strategy, energy, partnership – all these things are now beyond the capacity of nation states to resolve.
Not one single EU Member State, be it large or small, can now handle the challenges, whether economic, environmental or social, that we face today, and it is for that reason that we have to develop the European Union further, the reason why we have to entrench it. Indeed, there are those who say that we want to offer our people, who face this global challenge, the framework that Europe needs in order to keep its head above water in international competition, and what they need is more Europe. For the sake of consistency, though, if they are to have this ‘more Europe’, they have to supply the framework that Europe needs.
In this Union of 25 – which will soon comprise 27 states – we cannot resolve the challenges that you rightly described with the means at our disposal; it is not possible. That is why your decision, as a consequence of what you described, to ratify the Constitution, was a way of saying, ‘we need this instrument’ and was, as such, a logical, right and therefore consistent decision to take.
In so doing, you have sent out the right signal at the very outset of your presidency, and that is something of which we Social Democrats are very much in favour.
Mr President of the Commission, you said, ‘we want to be a team with the Finnish Presidency of the Council’. That is terrific, and we are right there with you on that, but, in his speech just now, Mr Vanhanen had this to say:
‘I am convinced that an enlarging Union needs the Constitutional Treaty that was negotiated by its Member States.’
– (DE) Enlargement and the Constitution are two sides of the same coin. I now read in a report from Reuters – I have no idea as to whether it is true or false; you can explain that to us – that you, after the meeting with Mr Vanhanen, what one might call the teambuilding in Helsinki, told a press conference that we could also enlarge on the basis of the Treaty of Nice. The Reuters report may well be wrong, and in that case you should tell us what the truth of the matter is.
I am grateful for the opportunity given to us to talk about the third pillar. The deficit that you described, and also the examples that the President of the Commission adduced of the failure to transpose legislation on security policy and third-pillar cooperation, are things that need to be dealt with. Nowhere are the European people more in favour of power at the European level than when it comes to the combating of organised crime, a well-ordered immigration policy, a safe asylum policy and properly secured borders, but nowhere – as Mr Barroso rightly said – are we less effective than in these areas. You are right to say that we need the ‘passerelle’ clause, but that has nothing to do with any ‘cherry-picking’ approach to the Constitution. You only have to read the Treaty of Nice to see that it already provides for a transfer from the third pillar to the first, subject to unanimous approval by the Council, five years following its entry into force, and so we are acting within the bounds set by a valid Treaty.
While we are on this subject, let me make a final observation. When talking about the third pillar, we are talking about the chapter that also describes citizens’ freedoms and rights in Europe. When talking about the Constitution, we are also talking about the Charter of Fundamental Rights, but then we must, even now, start asking the Presidents of the Council and the Commission to be more pro-active in dealing with the populist development in Europe, of which we in this House are made aware on a daily basis. We now have, in the European Union, governments – and that is bad enough – that are supported by right-wing populist parties, some of them openly racist and xenophobic, and these are sitting in the European Council – not as backbenchers in some parliament or other, but as active members of European institutions.
I myself saw an example of this during yesterday’s debate on Francoism, in which one of the speakers was a non-attached Member of this House, whose son is the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland; here, in this House, he openly defended the Franco regime. This is not some sort of random event; the fact is that more and more governments in the European Union are starting, through their failure to take action against it, to make populism respectable, and that constitutes a serious threat to fundamental freedoms in Europe. I would ask the President-in-Office of the Council to take a more serious approach to addressing this issue, not least at Council level, for when democracy is threatened, it is most often from within rather than from without.
(Applause from the left)
Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, with the Finnish Presidency’s emphasis on productivity, accountability and transparency, ‘Finlandia’ is music to Liberal ears.
The programme you have presented today, President-in-Office, reflects both the strong reforming tendencies of your government and the egalitarian and innovative impulses of a nation which repeatedly tops the league tables for education, innovation and development. Liberal values will be on the march with your Presidency.
I would like to refer to just a few areas which my group feels to be important. First, the market-driven programme. Priorities like completing the internal market, particularly in services and the energy sector, are key goals for us in the months ahead, as are efforts to deliver a directive on the portability of supplementary pensions and promoting market openings for new technologies. The latter will pay more long-term dividends than any government-funded initiatives on research and development, and provide the growth and jobs and prosperity that our Union desperately needs.
As regards Article 42 – justice and home affairs – your Presidency is right to focus on areas where European Union legislation adds value to citizens’ lives, but in the modern world a wanted man can be halfway across Europe before the policeman has his boots on. It beggars belief that the law still has borders, when criminals do not. For too long, key initiatives on police and judicial cooperation have been stalled in the Council, and even those decisions taken lack the democratic scrutiny that protects our human rights and civil liberties, as we have seen with the inadequacies of data protection legislation.
President-in-Office, the time has come to heed our call to apply the footbridge clause provided for in Article 42 and to make policy in justice and home affairs democratically.
The transparency initiative, which has found one of its key supporters in your Presidency, is one way out of this anti-democratic cul-de-sac. Liberals and Democrats seek your assurance that safeguard clauses will be used sparingly or not at all. But true transparency requires that the transposition, implementation and enforcement of legislation be given much more attention than it has to date.
Three years ago, we demanded that Member States draw up concordance tables showing how they transposed EU directives into national law. Let citizens see for themselves which parts of the law come from Brussels and which reflect the hobbyhorses of national governments. Otherwise, poor implementation and gold-plating will continue to fuel the fire of Brussels-bashers. Yet, since your Presidency started three days ago, I see changes are already afoot. The comitology decision, which gives Parliament the right of recall, giving us equal powers to Council to make sure the law is applied, is a very important step. With greater power comes greater responsibility and I hope that our House will bear that in mind when it meets today to discuss much-needed parliamentary reform.
President-in-Office, you have a big agenda: the agenda of dealing with Asia and the ASEM Summit; the agenda of dealing with Russia. We wish you success in this and we ask you to think not just of engagement, but of promotion of European values, of human rights and democracy, so essential to the development of our world. We wish you success in finding a way forward to an agreement in the WTO, so valuable to our economy and that of developing countries, and we wish you great success with enlargement, though we know that is also in the hands of another very competent Finn, Commissioner Rehn, who is here with us today.
In conclusion, you spoke about public fears of globalisation. These can best be overcome by developing a European consciousness. As Lönnrot did for Finland in the Kalevala, we need to draw on aspects of our common history to create a common consciousness.
I wish you the wisdom of Väinämöinen. I hope that for the people’s lasting pleasure you compose mighty songs for Europe’s children.
(FI) For his people’s lasting pleasure, mighty songs for Suomi’s children.
Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, your speech, Mr President-in-Office, has left me quite stunned. You decorated all your proposals with words like ‘we must, ‘we have to’ and ‘we need to’, and, in itself, everything you said is true, but at no point did you tell us how and why you plan to reach these targets, and you never told us how they would be prioritised.
So, let us start by assessing the situation in Europe – and in this I am repeating some of what Mr Schulz said. We are currently facing a worrying development in Europe: in Slovakia, the social democrats are allying themselves with the extreme right to form a government; similar developments are taking place in Poland; and in the Netherlands, the centre-right government, in an attempt to hold on to power, is forming an alliance with the populist extreme right. It is the same trend, and, indeed, when you say that 'Europe is a combination of values and the capacity to take action', what do you think the relationship is between values and action? You have not said anything about that.
Allow me, like Mr Poettering, to return to another problem, that of Russia and energy. At the moment, Europe is giving the impression that it is under Mr Putin's thumb, because it is afraid of losing its energy, and when we are afraid of losing our energy, we no longer have any energy at all! That is the reality of the situation in Europe, and I saw no trace of this observation in the Finnish position. Do you remember the commotion caused in Finland when a member of your Green party said that the Duma was not democratic? Something that is self-evident to all caused a scandal in Finland. I would therefore advise caution.
In addition, you talked about illegal immigration, but, before we talk about illegal immigration, we need to discuss the need to organise legal immigration. Until we are able to organise legal immigration, we will continue to have illegal immigration.
You referred to the Council of Europe and its discussions on the possibilities for enlarging Europe, but why did you not refer to its discussions on the CIA and the situation where a major international secret service institution can operate in Europe without anyone being informed – neither the European Union nor the European governments? Why did you not mention the French or German secret services, who have illegally been to interrogate people in Guantanamo? That is the reality of Europe.
These are the issues you need to talk about if you want to save the rule of law in Europe. Even so, the Presidency needs to seize with both hands the reality of the European Union, and not content itself with making an assessment like the ones we can read every day in the newspapers.
You have not given Europe a direction. That is what your speech was lacking.
Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FI) Mr President, during the previous Finnish Presidency seven years ago significant steps were taken towards federalising the Union. At the time a basis was created for establishing an area of freedom, security and justice; in other words, the communitisation of the Member States’ civil legislation. That policy is now being continued. During the previous term the militarisation of the Union was also begun and military institutions established for it, under whose leadership preparations are in place for military operations in Africa early next year. Training for these is going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although no one is going to the source of the chaos in the eastern parts of the country.
In major political issues during the Presidency the Finnish Government will not obtain the backing of its own people. An indication of that is the resistance to the Government’s proposal to ratify the defunct EU Constitution in the Finnish Parliament this autumn. According to an opinion poll, just 22% of the Finnish people are in favour of ratification, as proposed by the government.
This Constitution will never come into force anywhere. Its ratification is a waste of time, although that is what the Commission, among other bodies, wants. Commissioner Olli Rehn, after all, has adopted a position on this on behalf of the Commission, although the matter does not fall within the Commission’s competence. Commissioner Rehn’s attitude does not befit a Member of the European Commission.
Some Member States, furthermore, have proposed to Finland that the Constitution should be ratified. Finland’s acceptance is a sign of subservience. Neither is Finland showing any regard for the power of the people or democracy in France or the Netherlands.
According to an opinion poll, the Finnish people oppose any military alliance for the country. The Finnish Government is making a mockery of the will of the people in this matter too by making the supply of EU combat forces one priority area. Mr Vanhanen’s Government has yielded to the EU’s will by abolishing the requirement under national law for a UN mandate as a condition for the mobilisation of a combat force division. The UN is being prepared for illegal wars with no UN mandate, even though, from the legal standpoint internationally, a precondition for legal military action is in fact a UN mandate. Our group opposes these attempts at the militarization of the EU and involving the EU in illegal wars.
Civil servants in Finland are trained in dealing effectively with matters relating to EU enlargement, Structural Funds programmes, the REACH regulation, the Seventh Framework Programme on science and research and many other day-to-day issues on the EU’s agenda. These also include the directive on services and free trade, which our group has viewed critically. Openness and transparency, which Finland says it promotes, would be increased by Finland’s own decision to make known in public the recipients of EU agricultural aid.
Our group actively supports the policy on Russia and thinks that Commission President Barroso’s proposal for a free trade agreement with Russia is an interesting start and one which the Presidency needs to respond to. We wish Finland success in all the various matters it has to deal with on a daily basis.
Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. – Mr President, I should like to welcome the President-in-Office and the President of the Commission to the Chamber.
When the incoming Presidency sets out its programme, it can often sound a little stale or bored and the reaction to it is also stale. That is why it is unfortunate that some of the brilliant ideas from the Presidency on the future it envisages for the European Union have not been taken up properly. Looking at the different Presidency programmes – whether the Finnish Presidency, the previous Austrian Presidency or even the advance programme for the German Presidency – we can often see continuity in one area, but we can also see the individuality of the country taking over the Presidency.
One of the key elements we in the European Union must focus on is our relationship with the countries to the east of the existing European Union borders. You, President-in-Office, have proved your ability and skill in building up the relationship with Russia. It is not just about energy, but also about neighbourhood policy, cooperation and geopolitical stability, because there are so many issues in the former states of the Soviet Union that can create uncertainty and instability within the European Union. We have to be careful of that and we look to you to utilise your resources and skills in those areas.
Secondly, on the question of transparency and openness – and people often speak about transparency without fully realising or understanding what it means – the most transparent thing Parliament, the institutions and the Presidency can do is to deliver on their commitments. That is why, President-in-Office, the ideas being proposed on improving justice and home affairs, promoting alternative energy – although I might disagree with you on other aspects of climate change and their solutions – and new ways of creating biofuels, bio-energy and bioethanol are the way forward. You and some of your ministers will need to be courageous in standing up to the lobby groups that want to push us down a single road. The best approach is the multi-track approach, taking the best from each individual part.
The President of the Commission rightly referred to the importance of research and technology and innovation for the European economy. If we in Europe are not ahead of the rest of the world in our ability to create new ideas and new innovations, we will lose. No matter how good our tax regimes or infrastructure, if we do not have the brains, intelligence and capacity to utilise and exploit those ideas, then we will fail. I think some of the ideas your Presidency is putting forward on research and development will yield dividends for us. The protection of intellectual property should be one of your concerns.
Finally, I have not so far mentioned football, but I have to mention one aspect and that is that football is a game of two halves and even extra time. It may be that we need extra time rather than applying the passerelle clause under Article 42 immediately. Let us ensure that we have consensus in the Council before moving forward.
Nigel Farage, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, listening to Mr Vanhanen’s speech I experienced that déjà vu moment – we have been here before, because it is the same speech with every incoming Presidency.
I started to ask myself, Mr Vanhanen, who do you really represent? Are you here today giving us the express will of your own nation? Well, I wonder, because the last comprehensive Eurobarometer poll carried out in autumn 2005 showed that only 38% of your fellow countrymen think membership of the European Union has been a good thing. Therefore the message from them is pretty clear: they do not want more Europe. And yet here you are today telling us that the medicine the rest of us need is that we must have more Europe, we must have the Constitution, we must press ahead.
What you represent is the professional political class in Europe, who of course are all in favour of the European Union. My view is that it was an absolute democratic disgrace that, at the recent Brussels Summit, all 25 Heads of State and Government agreed to end the period of reflection and to begin to implement the Constitution against the wishes that the Dutch and French people expressed in their referendums last year.
So public opinion does not matter a damn, does it? It is business as usual and you are going to press on with enlargement; you are going to press on with a common asylum policy despite the fact that your own countrymen and virtually nobody else wants it; and I heard you say you are going to press for ‘better regulation’. Do not make me laugh! The fact is, this is already a bureaucratic, over-regulated model and there will not be any real economic growth until we deregulate and free up our businesses.
If you were a democrat and not an EU nationalist, you would put a case for free and fair open referendums, so that the peoples of Europe could express their will. I will not be holding my breath.
(Applause from the IND/DEM Group)
Martin Schulz (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I ask that Mr Farage’s description of the President of the European Council as ‘not a democrat’ be recorded in the Minutes.
Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, the statements made by the Finnish Presidency appear to indicate that it wishes, and I quote 'to restore the hugely deflated public confidence in the EU’s organisations’. Although that is, of course, a very commendable goal, it is just a little strange that the source of such sentiments should be the Finnish Government which wants the Finnish Parliament to ratify the moribund European Constitution no matter what, even though this Constitution, following the French and Dutch referendums, is no longer of any legal or democratic-political value whatsoever.
That is in any case a bad start for restoring confidence, but it gets even worse now that the Finnish Presidency has announced that it would consider any breakdown in the accession negotiations with Turkey as, and I quote 'personal failure’. It is obvious, though, not only that Turkey is not a European country and can never become one geographically, politically, economically, historically, culturally and so on, but also that the majority of European citizens do not want this Turkish accession at all. Instead, they seek to restore and further develop the best possible friendly relations and economic contacts with our neighbour Turkey.
The fact that the Finnish Presidency is now personally committed to promoting this Turkish accession come what may is at odds with the overblown declarations about restoring confidence and respecting the democratic views in Europe. It also unmasks as a lie the European claim that the negotiations can still be open-ended. In view of the fact that Turkish accession is being rammed down our throats, I would urge you to stop the nonsense about democracy and respect for public opinion.
Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, Prime Minister, Finland is taking over the helm of the EU at a time when the Union needs leadership more than anything. That is why it was a pleasure to listen to Prime Minister Vanhanen’s message on Finland’s objectives.
Finland is thoroughly prepared to succeed in its Presidency. That has been visible, for example, in the way we Finnish Members have been contacted. That is a good thing, because it is Finland’s, and not just its Government’s, Presidency.
Finland has proposed that the Union should put time and effort into innovation and competitiveness, transparency, energy, the Northern Dimension and external relations, as well as finding a solution regarding the fate of the Constitution. These are aims that I could not agree with more. After all, a united and competitive Europe has always traditionally been the goal of the Finnish National Coalition/Conservative Party and the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats.
Finland, however, should take a look in the mirror when it comes to progress on the European Common Foreign and Security Policy. The government’s approach in particular to the European defence dimension has been woefully inconsistent. The Finnish Government has normally taken a critical view of closer defence cooperation. Our Government has only yielded when it has realised it was in a minority in the Council. In the end, it was demonstrated in practical terms that the development which the Government had been opposing was the right one and good for Europe as a whole, and not just Finland.
Prime Minister, security is not created through isolation. Closer cooperation is needed if we are to improve the security of the European people and global stability. Our citizens also expect that. As you said, the EU has become a superpower, which cannot afford to pause to reflect in its external action.
What then could the Council do under a Finnish leadership? There are several concrete proposals on security in the Constitutional Treaty. They include a solidarity clause, enhanced cooperation on crisis management, closer defence material cooperation, and the obligation to assist other Member States in the event of a military attack, that is to say, mutual defence. Most of these have already been introduced in one way or another, though not the security guarantee clause. The development, however, has become tangled. It is high time we implemented Maastricht’s lofty goal: a Common Foreign and Security Policy, an essential component of which is also a common defence system. If I can quote the wise words of the Prime Minister, we should not just wait around for a better time to come. That time is here and now.
Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, Finland’s success during its Presidency might be measured by how well Finland chairs the debate on Russia and negotiates with that country. Surely not many will accuse us any longer today of Finlandisation!
Energy is a weapon of foreign policy, but it is also a weapon in the struggle for global resources, for energy. The energy issue has become a sensitive barometer of the relationship between the European Union and Russia, one which could also lead to conflict. We want security of supply, and Russia wants a reliable customer. Is this such an impossible equation to balance? That is what Finland is now trying to do, as Finland and Russia have been operating that way for many years now. One or two revolutions notwithstanding, the oil has been flowing as normal.
The Russians have begun to take a positive view of the Northern Dimension, but now have doubts about the new European Neighbourhood Policy, because they do not want to be compared with countries in the south or the northern Sahara. The Northern Dimension must become an important forum for northern issues.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement needs to be reformed. It was out of date when it started, and, just as Mr Poettering said, we want a stable, democratic and developing Russia. Russia cannot be forced into it, however, and we all have experience of that. During its Presidency, Finland will not be like Mr Berlusconi: there will be less play-acting and a little more honesty.
Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the Finnish Presidency will freshen up a tired EU. That, at least, is what we Finns want to believe. History has shown that the presidencies of small countries have often brought with them a breath of fresh air. Now the Northern breeze is very welcome. Its coolness is invigorating.
Close, tangible cooperation with Russia is important for the entire EU, both economically and politically. As a neighbouring country, Finland has a special interest in getting talks under way and making rapid progress with them. Despite the fact that we share a border, Finland is not one of those countries which are suspected of promoting its own interests at the expense of a common European policy. Concrete action is expected of the Finnish Presidency in energy policy, environmental policy, and, in particular, cooperation in the Baltic region in all its respects.
Secondly, I would like to raise the issue of transparency. The Prime Minister said that transparency is essential. What is most important with regard to transparency is public access to documents, because the openness of meetings can sometimes be rather deceiving. Only through transparency will EU policy be comprehensible to people and will the public and national decision-makers be able to monitor it, and this monitorability and accountability are important. The EU must have the support and approval of its citizens, and, for that, transparency, monitoring and accountability are important factors.
IN THE CHAIR: MR TRAKATELLIS Vice-President
Satu Hassi (Verts/ALE). – (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Prime Minister, I am sorry but your approach is more that of a careful civil servant or an apprentice rather than a leader, let alone visionary. Your basic position is to attend to processes which are already well under way in the Union, which is vitally important, admittedly, but not enough. A leader must face up to the challenges which global and European developments bring with them.
You barely acknowledged the importance of climate change. There is not even a mention of climate change in the list of priorities for the Finnish Presidency, even though it concerns the future, not only of Europe, but of all humanity. It really is not enough to list the meetings which are on the agenda. We need a proactive, creative approach on the part of the EU President. Otherwise, there will definitely not be any global agreement on how we are to continue protecting the climate after Kyoto, which is to say after 2012, which is already quite close. The inclusion of new countries in particular needs a completely different approach from the one you just proposed.
One of our greatest challenges is the explosive growth in the flow of illegal refugees. You merely proposed more effective border controls, police cooperation and asylum procedures. This is very discouraging indeed. Europe needs to develop an immigration policy fast, so that people from elsewhere in the world can move here to work completely legally. It is wrong and cruel to regard poor immigrants as illegal workers without rights.
One internal challenge which we face is discrimination against minorities, such as homosexuals, and I hate all the fuss that was stirred up which the European Parliament intervened in on two occasions this year and asked the Finnish Presidency to do something about. You did not say anything about this. Why not? Where is your leader’s approach? In the Council, do you intend to take forward the decision that was taken on the fight against racism and xenophobia?
You spoke too of transparency, which is welcome, but there are contradictions in what you say. Before, Finland said it would promote transparency, but in the Finnish weekend newspapers you say that you do not intend to increase transparency. Today you spoke about developing internet search services. What, then, is your policy on transparency? Is it just technical trickery or the development of the transparency of decision-making itself?
Roberto Musacchio (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have already said on other occasions that, until we change our liberalist approach, we will struggle to get out of the crisis that Europe is in. It is this approach that is jeopardising the social and environmental objectives, which we are nevertheless trying to achieve.
Let us take energy: energy cannot be regarded as a commodity like any other, it is the key issue of the future, which requires us to go down the road of the Kyoto Protocol and far beyond, to switch to renewable sources, by abandoning fossil fuels, and not to run the unacceptable risks of nuclear energy use; it requires fairness and solidarity and not conflicts, trade wars or even, as is sometimes the case, military wars; it requires another vision of the economy, of society, of politics and of democracy.
Europe is talking about an energy community, and that is a good idea, but, in order to exist, that community requires the aforesaid choices to be made, and made together with the others – from Russia to South America and to Africa – and not against them.
In a few days’ time, the G8 will take place in St Petersburg, and, even though we find the venue very controversial and unacceptable, Europe must present those proposals there, as they go hand in hand with the concept of energy as a common resource of the future.
Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, President of the Commission, in the debate on the programme of the Finnish Presidency I would like to draw attention to a significant obstacle in relations between the EU and Russia.
Finland, which has traditionally had good relations with Russia, needs to make headway on at least two matters. The first is Russia’s use of fuel supplies as levers of political influence, both on the EU Member States, and on other countries. Russia, which wants good relations with the EU, must put a stop to such practices, and this is something that the EU should demand at the next summit. Secondly, Russia is applying for membership of the World Trade Organisation, in which the EU is a major player, yet she is blocking the import of many products to her markets, thereby infringing WTO standards. A telling example of this is Russia’s ban on imports of Polish foodstuffs for the past seven months. Although Poland has since eliminated all of the grounds for which these exports were blocked, the Russian side has failed to raise the restrictions. Given this situation, it should be impossible for EU representatives to agree to Russian WTO membership without that country finally resolving the issue of access to its markets, including access for goods of Polish origin.
I hope that the Finnish Presidency will make efforts to resolve the above issues.
Jens-Peter Bonde (IND/DEM). – (DA) Mr President, my dear fellow member of the Convention Prime Minister Vanhanen, I think it was brave of Mr Vanhanen to offer to begin the ratification process for a treaty that should have been dead and buried after the referendums in France and the Netherlands. Why is there now a lack of courage in Finland? Why does he not dare put the Constitution to a referendum? On the same day as we visited the Prime Minister in Helsinki he got his President to sign the draft Constitution, to which she is opposed. This happened just a few hours after Finnish television had published an opinion poll showing that only 22% of Finns back the Constitution, while 48% oppose it. I think that Mr Vanhanen should be hiding behind his prime ministerial gown.
At the Convention, the Prime Minister worked for transparency, democracy and proximity to the people and supported the call for the Constitution to be put to referendums in every Member State. Make the requirement for a referendum in every Member State a condition of acceptance by Finland, thus putting into practice the transparency you heralded. Put all the documents from the entire legislation process on the website. Open up all meetings to the public unless a majority of the countries actively request this not to be done. The Prime Minister signed the draft at the Convention with his own hand, in common with all the other elected representatives there. Put it to the next meeting of the Council of Ministers. Twenty of the 25 governments have also signed up. The draft can be adopted by a simple majority of the 25 Member States. Promises ought to be kept. I call on our Finnish President-in-Office to be brave and stand by his signature. I am sure that the Prime Minister would only make enemies in the EU’s secret COREPER government. The peoples of the whole of Europe would love him if he were the one to open the locked doors to this remote Union. I hope that there will be something to say thank you for in December.
Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I speak on behalf of the new Italian Socialist Party. I fully agree with the priorities of the Finnish Presidency and, in particular, with the emphasis placed on reviving the role of our institutions, both at European level and at international level.
As regards the first aspect, as regards, that is, the institutions’ relationship with the citizens, there are many strategies that can be undertaken: dialogue, democracy, debate, as the Commission is proposing, are certainly among these, but I feel that three actions in particular could really send out a strong signal to Europeans regarding our political will. They are: i) to conclude the period of reflection in order to relaunch the constitutional process in practice; ii) to make the decision-making process and, I would add, the administrative process, more transparent – in this connection, I am grateful to the Finnish Presidency for its commitment along these lines, a commitment that, I hope, will have concrete results; iii) to try to find a convincing and practicable solution to the issue of Parliament’s having two seats, a problem that certainly does not contribute to the image of efficiency and circumspection that we want to present to our citizens.
On an international level, as Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen has declared, the EU is a community of values and its starting points are peace and stability. One of the commitments the EU has made in the eyes of the international community is to promote these values outside, as well as inside, its borders. I therefore hope that the Council will be able to support the requests that will come from Parliament in this connection, regarding the instruments that must finance international cooperation and the promotion of democracy and of human rights. In this sector, too, it is in fact important to guarantee a strong, consistent and effective commitment in addition, once again, to transparency in decision making and in the implementation process, so as to ensure that we give due credibility to our actions.
Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I should like to begin by wishing the Prime Minister well as he embarks on his work. His profile in the Financial Times this week said that he had built his own house and loves gardening. With someone so practical in his approach to life, I am sure we can also look forward to a very practical Presidency.
The new Presidency wants to develop a transparent and effective Union. The issues of transparency and openness are ones the British Conservatives have been championing for many years. The opening of Council meetings, despite the crass attempts by the new British Foreign Secretary to preserve secrecy, is a step in the right direction. We will watch carefully to see that the letter and spirit of openness is upheld in the coming months. I also welcome the Presidency’s wish to scrutinise the effects of legislation and improve its clarity. However, we have long argued for proper assessments of whether some legislation is actually required at all. The initial presumption must always, in my view, be against legislating.
Proper impact assessments should also be undertaken before embarking on new laws and I hope the Presidency will make progress on less legislation and less regulation being an essential part of the reform agenda that I would like to see Europe develop.
I welcome the support for a collegiate approach to the Presidency. It certainly makes sense for two or three incoming Presidencies to get together to agree priorities and to pursue plans based on a longer-term programme. Six-monthly stop and start policies often do not work when we need long-term planning and reform.
I hope the Presidency will work closely with President Barroso on the economic reform agenda. There is no room for complacency. The drive to make Europe more competitive does not begin and end with summit conclusions. The need for reform is as urgent as ever and I hope the Presidency will champion the kind of liberalising and reformist economic agenda that we have long urged.
Finally, can we please sort out the vexed question of the seat of this Parliament once and for all?
Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, The Finnish Presidency of the Council – as Mr Vanhanen has again demonstrated today – is one with a very sober approach, and, though it might sometimes be rather too cool in its utterances, I can say, thinking of the problems that it will have to deal with, that things are going to hot up quite a bit from time to time.
One problem to which both you and the President of the Commission alluded is the issue of Turkey. You will be aware that we regard the opening of negotiations with Turkey and the progress of those negotiations as very serious matters, but you will also be aware of our absolute insistence on Turkey discharging its legal obligations, Although we would wish – and it is good that Commissioner Rehn is here to hear this – to see, in parallel with this but not dependent on it, everything possible being done to give the Turkish population of Northern Cyprus a better chance of doing as they desire and drawing closer to the European Union, with the Cypriot Government also doing everything in its power to open up new ways and new channels in order to foster new trust between the two ethnic groups.
If you succeed in doing both these things, that is to say, getting Turkey to do what the law requires of it while also moving things forward in Cyprus, that would be a very great triumph indeed.
Turning to South-Eastern Europe, I can do no other than confirm that we would also like to see you taking further steps to show all of them – including the Serbs – the road to Europe at this very difficult stage.
Let me turn, thirdly, to Russia. It is only right that you should place both energy and Russia high up your agenda.
There are two things that we regard as vitally important. Firstly, where energy is concerned, a legally binding framework needs to be agreed on by Russia and the European Union, and, if not the energy charter – concerning which Mr Barroso has announced new initiatives – then it must be some other legally binding framework that is transparent to both parties and valid in both of them.
Secondly, it is vitally important that Russia should pursue a neighbourhood policy similar to Europe’s. We both have interests in our common neighbours, but, while we offer them one thing or another, Russia often brings political pressure to bear on them. I would like to see you get Moscow, too, to offer its neighbours something. In that way, we could end up competing with one another in terms of what we can offer, rather than there being offers from one side and political pressure from the other.
Karin Riis-Jørgensen (ALDE). – (DA) Mr President, I have a request for you, Mr Vanhanen, now that your work on extending the competence of the EU is to be taken further. I fully support your proposal to change cooperation in legal affairs so that we will now have majority decision-making. This would indeed mean stepping up our joint effort to combat terrorism and the terrible trade in women. As I say, I have a request for you, Mr Vanhanen, from one Liberal to another, so to speak. Make sure that we do not end up on a slippery slope. There are many worrying signs. Examples include the cases involving data protection, the handing over of passenger lists, the CIA flights and now the most recent case involving the company Swift, which has allowed American authorities to monitor European bank transfers. We must be vigilant in ensuring that our fundamental freedoms are not violated and that we do not compromise our rights unduly for the sake of the fight against terrorism. By this I mean that we must not unduly compromise our freedom for the sake of our own security. There is a very fine balance to be struck here, so think about this when you get down to work. Work well, and with zeal!
Mr Barroso, from one small country to another: have a good match tonight and may the best team win!
Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, President-in-Office, as a representative of the European Free Alliance stateless nations, such as Scotland, Wales and Catalonia, I note that Finland, as well as leading the EU and celebrating a hundred years of restored independence, was the first nation in the world to grant full political rights to women. As more and more small countries such as Catalonia, Montenegro and my own, Scotland, seek to reassert our right to independence, we look to Finland and the other small Member States of the EU as role models.
I welcome your stated commitment to transparency and subsidiarity. However, if we are really to restore public credibility in the European Union, as we both want, we must do more than simply retable the existing Constitution text. EU credibility in Scotland, for instance, will not improve if the disastrous common fisheries policy is further entrenched. This wasteful trek that we must make to Strasbourg each month does not help.
I also welcome the President-in-Office’s stated intention to consult on the Constitution, but we need to consult not only each other in the institutions but also the public and take note of what they say.
Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL), – (DE) Mr President, following on from the Austrians, we now, with the Finns, have for the second time the Council Presidency occupied by a neutral EU Member State, or perhaps I should say a formally neutral EU Member State, for, when I look at the Finnish Presidency’s programme as regards foreign policy, and military policy in particular, things are exactly as they were, and, in some respects, even more so. With the official purpose of providing security for elections, 2 000 EU soldiers are to be deployed in the Congo, yet we know – and the German defence minister has himself said – what this is actually all about; it is actually all about safeguarding Germany’s and the EU's economic interests, and now – or so I see from the plan – the Sudan is the next country to get the treatment, this time with NATO involvement.
The EU is constantly embarking on new military adventures, and that I do regard as fatal. The ‘battle group’ is to be put into service during the Finnish Presidency – something I regard as problematic – and, lamentably, we are still pushing the constitutional treaty even though it has been pronounced dead. Why do we not, at long last, give up on it? I would urge you to do an about-turn, and commit yourself to a truly civilian Europe, with no more billions of taxpayers’ money being spent on militarisation, and to act like a state that really is neutral.
Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM). – (NL) Although the debate about Europe’s future requires an ambitious and decisive presidency in the second half of 2006, this morning’s presentation makes me fear the worst. Allow me to start with ambition, or the lack of it. I criticise you for clinging onto the rejected European constitution. By doing so, you, the Finnish President, prevent a fresh, ambitious debate about the future of the European Union from being initiated.
That is not all, though. The Finnish Presidency, which trumpets its commitment to transparency, is keeping Europe painfully divided. While you know that the text of the twice rejected constitution should at least be amended, you have the intention of ratifying this European constitution during your presidency. How can this be justified to the citizen, and – more to the point – the Dutch citizen?
I am also concerned about your lack of decisiveness. Will you really mind the shop single-handedly while we wait for Chancellor Merkel? How decisive is a presidency which, by way of an interview given by its Foreign Affairs Minister to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, indicates from as early as 1 July that it does not expect a great deal from the consultation round with the Member States?
I do not often experience the pleasure of agreeing with the analysis of Mr Leinen, chairman of our Committee on Constitutional Affairs. I do, however, share his view that the Council is sending out a confusing message. The Finnish Presidency must unambiguously choose between the rejected constitution or a new treaty framework. My preferred choice, by the way, would be the more ambitious second option. I would therefore call on the Finnish Presidency to display now the ambition and real decisiveness that are called for.
Ryszard Czarnecki (NI). – (PL) Mr President, I am pleased that the Finnish Prime Minister mentioned more effective European institutions today. This is a major issue at the moment, when the European Union is at a crossroads. In my view we should not restrict the competences of the Council, but increase those of the European Parliament as the body elected by the citizens, and restrict the competences of the Commission, in whose election the citizens have had no say. I am pleased with the Finnish Presidency’s support for the idea of greater transparency for European institutions, as transparency is a vital issue.
It is a good thing that the Presidency has been positive in assessing the latest EU enlargement; I believe that in the coming six months there will be a good atmosphere for the next gradual and sensible expansion of EU structures. When the President of the Council speaks of the need to work towards greater European competitiveness, I hope that this is not mere words, and that the Council will translate this promise into concrete action, for instance in the services sector, and that there will be an end to all the restrictions that the unfortunate Services Directive in its current form imposes in this field.
Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, you are not in the easiest of positions, Mr Vanhanen, sandwiched between an Austrian Presidency that had a respectable record and a German Presidency that is already attracting some significant attacks. This suffocating position should have given you greater determination to be daring, so that Finland can be the Presidency of practical invention and of long-term progress.
Unfortunately, instead of surprising us, you have disappointed us. Your speech was lacking in spirit. We were treated to a catalogue, a hotchpotch of ideas in which you took great care not to leave out a single facet of European policy, but that is not what we are expecting from you: what we want is concrete action.
I will give you a few examples: you should concern yourself with the cost of calling abroad using a mobile phone, which penalises so many Europeans; and you should also provide real support for the implementation of Galileo. What we expect from you is that you use your influence in the Council to achieve more proactive developments in judicial and police cooperation.
You also have another task, that of the European Union's own funding, because it has been unable to provide itself with a budget. The Council has been unable to give itself a budget that matches the ambitions publicised by the European Union.
It would be a great shame if we had to return to the leitmotif of 'we cannot go any further, the Council is standing in the way'. Nevertheless, why do you not share with us your experience of a true forestry policy? Wood is a renewable resource, and it thus meets criteria that are of interest to Europe in the context of climate change. You spoke about energy, but what we ask is that you be strong: strong when confronted with Russia, because power is all that Russia understands. Then, when we talk about Europe's borders, listen to the European Parliament, which is concerned about taking account of the European Union's absorption capacity.
To conclude, and this may be the only positive note in my speech, I would like to lend you my support in your government's declared desire to show greater firmness with regard to Turkey on the issue of Cyprus, because the Turkish invasion is the only barrier to reunification of the island. As you can see, there is much to do if your Presidency is not to be a wait-and-see Presidency.
Gary Titley (PSE). – Mr President, I welcome the Finnish Presidency, which I assume will be carried out with the usual Finnish efficiency and professionalism. Finland has a lot to teach us, particularly in relation to the importance of investment in high-quality education and also how to balance economic efficiency and social justice.
I welcome the President-in-Office’s speech, which boils down to three points. There are three priorities for the Council at the moment: action, action and action. Citizens do not love processes, they love outcomes, and we will be judged by our outcomes.
On Friday we, in the United Kingdom, will mark the anniversary of the horrific events of 7 July 2005, when 52 of our citizens were blown up in a terrorist attack. I well remember the sympathy and solidarity that I received from my colleagues here in the European Parliament at that time last year, and that which we showed to our Spanish colleagues the year before at the time of the Madrid bombings. Our citizens expect Europe to make them secure.
We had another event on 21 July, which fortunately was unsuccessful. However, because of the European Arrest Warrant one of the suspects was brought back to the United Kingdom from Italy in a matter of weeks. That is precisely the sort of action our citizens want to see. We need to deliver on better security cooperation. We also need to deliver on better security as a whole. We still have great shortfalls in our crisis management capabilities. That is because Member States say they will do something and then do not deliver. Let us make delivery by Member States our absolute priority.
Similarly, on migration policy, let us have a fair, effective policy that links development and migration policy, one that makes our borders much more secure. Let us, on energy, recognise that we have a single market. Let us follow through on that logic. Let us drive forward the whole single market agenda, which is still too incomplete.
I welcome your commitment to better regulation, President-in-Office, but as you have heard today the biggest gain in better regulation will be to stop the European Parliament wandering around Europe, so that we can better focus on legislation.
Kyösti Virrankoski (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, I want to thank Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen for his comprehensive presentation. I would especially like to endorse his concern regarding the justification of the Union’s existence, its legitimacy.
The virtual collapse of the Constitutional Treaty in the referenda that were held reflects not so much the immense control the people have over legislation but the suspicion and distrust which they feel with regard to the European Union. There is good cause for this. The huge amount of EU legislation, with all its meticulous detail, the vast and ineffective bureaucracy and the wholly disproportionate amount of monitoring and supervision make the Union objectionable. That is why the Prime Minister’s promise to invest more time and energy in better legislation, in particular, is important. I agree with Prime Minister Vanhanen that the Union must focus on the essential and do that effectively. Regarding the Constitutional Treaty, Finland has a splendid opportunity to take the initiative and show real leadership by initiating consultations regarding the extent to which it can be taken forward and what it should contain.
If the EU is to succeed in the context of global competition it will have to be made more competitive. Research, product development and training are crucial. Hopefully, the Presidency will quickly succeed in simultaneously introducing legislation and programmes so that the meagre resources contained in the financial frameworks can start to be used.
Finally, I would like to mention agriculture, although there is no separate mention of it in the programme. In practice it is the only area of policy in which the EU regulates the private citizen’s level of income. Our largest industrial sector, the food industry, is also dependent on it. Hopefully, the Presidency will succeed in protecting our agriculture at WTO talks, where it is the object of furious attack. At the same time I hope that the preconditions for sustainable and competitive agriculture are assured everywhere in Europe, including the peripheral regions, in accordance with the decisions of the European Council.
I wish my country, Finland, every success in its Presidency.
Diamanto Manolakou (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, there is no need to delude ourselves that anything will change during the Finnish Presidency. It will continue to implement the same reactionary, anti-grassroots policy and militarisation of Europe for the next six months, as its programme confirms.
Its first choice is cooperation to resuscitate the European constitution, even though it was condemned and rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands.
Promotion of competitiveness to increase the profitability of Euro-unifying capital through even more oppressive exploitation of the workers.
Tax relief for capital and new taxes for the workers within the framework of the development of European Union regulations.
Green Paper on employment law in order to abolish every legal right won by the working-class movement through its struggles.
As for relations with Russia, they are the much sought after counterpart to competition with the USA.
However, what are particularly insulting are the pressures which the Finnish Presidency says it is preparing to exert on the Member States to start trading directly with occupied northern Cyprus, ignoring the fact that there is an occupying army and ignoring the de facto pseudo-state in order to satisfy unacceptable Turkish demands.
We must not allow this. We shall support any action by the working-class movement against this policy.
Ville Itälä (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, in recent debates I have heard two definitions of the Finnish Presidency. The first was that if the EU does not actually regress in the next six months the Finnish Presidency will have been a success. The other definition was that Finland’s principle task is to prepare for Germany’s forthcoming Presidency.
It is not like that, however: Finland has a lot more to offer Europe and the Europeans. The especially important priorities, Russia and energy, are areas where Finland has much expertise. It is with regard to these issues that the EU must take the biggest step forward. We totally lack a common policy on Russia and we cannot negotiate with Russia on an equal footing before we have one.
Prime Minister, you were quite right also to mention that here in Parliament there are many issues in progress which should be brought honourably to completion. They include REACH and the Financial Regulation and many other matters which are those very small steps which will help the EU to move forward.
You also mentioned enlargement, which I see as one of the most important issues and an immense challenge. It is in fact impossible to push forward enlargement which is too fast and against the will of the people and the Constitution at one and the same time. The Romanian and Bulgarian issue will come up during the Finnish Presidency and it is important to show our citizens that the criteria are being adhered to. The importance of this still obviously needs stressing, especially with regard to Turkey. The criteria must be adhered to for the people to have confidence in the EU.
What the people expect more than anything is obviously deeds and vision. The old view of why the EU exists is no longer enough for our citizens. Accordingly, it is time we established a new, common, definite idea of what the EU will like be in 10 or 20 years’ time. This is the issue that I think would be absolutely right for this Finnish Presidency to begin work on. It certainly will not be brought to completion but it is important to start working on it in order for the relationship between the people and the EU institutions to be able to continue in a positive mood.
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (PSE). – Mr President, the President-in-Office is famous in Finland for cooperation and consensus. I sincerely hope, President-in-Office, that when you meet the social partners at the social summit in October, you will make real progress, because no progress can be made on the wealth and values of the European Union Member States without broad, consensus-based cooperation.
President-in-Office, when we talk about flexicurity, which I am happy that you and President Barroso have embraced as an important basis for cooperation, it is extremely important that it is not just flexibility – which Mr de Villepin in France would like to see – but both flexibility and security in a combined and globalised modern version. That can only be done in cooperation with the social partners, which I hope you will take the lead on. You have all the prerequisites to do it and I am sure you will.
As I have emphasised this morning, my second appeal to you is that you combat crime, terrorism and human trafficking. Since you relaunched the Finnish Presidency in Tampere, this must now be the time to turn that into reality. I hope that, using the passerelle clause, we shall see the Finnish Presidency ending up with a very clear result for all our citizens.
Alexander Lambsdorff (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, Prime Minister Vanhanen, Mr President of the Commission, I believe that the Finnish Government has set itself the right priorities. We say ‘yes’ to strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including raising the profile of security policy. We say ‘yes’ to more competition and to greater transparency in EU legislation. We also say ‘yes’ to a calm debate as part of the constitutional process, as the Prime Minister no doubt has in mind for his country’s Presidency. As he can see, we in the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament have great confidence in the success of the Finnish Presidency.
All of this is taking place against the background of the Prime Minister’s recent statements in the Finnish Parliament, however. He said there that the Union no longer shares a common core, and that instead coalitions are formed depending on the individual case. The common European interest is taking second place to intergovernmental cooperation on a case-by-case basis. We should like him to do something for the common European interest, for the European core, and thus also to set an example for the subsequent German Presidency.
Othmar Karas (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have won the FIFA World Cup, but in political terms, too, the European Union is on the attack once more, it is achieving joint success, and it has increased its common objectives once again. I would ask the President-in-Office of the Council to be a strong captain of his Council team and to increase teamwork with his fellow players – cooperation with Parliament, for example, was one of the reasons for the success of the Austrian Presidency. I would ask him to continue this course of strengthening cooperation and involving Members.
Cooperation with Parliament is not the same as cooperation with national parliaments We are here to be the Council’s partners and co-legislators – not to monitor it. We are on a par with the Council; it is the Council, rather than the national parliaments, that is our opposite number.
Secondly, on the subject of transparency, I would ask the President-in-Office to ensure that this catchword becomes legislative reality, as transparency is a precondition for putting an end to the double game involving domestic and European policy. I ask that he ensure that all citizens of the Member States learn of the transparency of the Council’s role as legislator; and that he advertise transparency and give EuroNews a slot in the schedules of all public broadcasters.
Thirdly, on the subject of enlargement, the only way of inspiring confidence is through observance of the rules and consistency in our negotiations. If the Ankara Protocol is not implemented, the accession negotiations with Turkey must be discontinued. I recommend the President-in-Office to follow the example of the enlargement of the euro area, and that of the discussions on enlargement of the last six months.
For this reason, I would also ask the President of the Commission to clarify his comment on the preconditions for enlargement, which may be technically correct but, politically, has caused confusion. When we say that Nice is not enough, we must make it clear that, before we embark on the next major enlargement – namely the accession of Croatia – we need a new constitutional treaty.
Finally, I would ask the President-in-Office of the Council to ensure that results are achieved with regard to the Services Directive, the Working Time Directive and the Television without Frontiers Directive, and also regarding cross-border payments.
Enrique Barón Crespo (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, in my speech I will deal with three points from your speech and add a challenge.
Firstly, I would like to welcome the fact that the Finnish Government, on taking over the Presidency, has stood by its word and ratified the Constitution, which has now been supported by the majority of the States and people of Europe. That is a fact that must be emphasised, because we all agree that it is necessary, not just in order to enlarge, but also in order to function.
Secondly, with regard to the issue of security and the fight against terrorism, I would like to thank you for the support that you and other members of the European Council gave us at the beginning of the process of overcoming violence and achieving peace in my country, Spain.
Thirdly, I would also like to stress that the process of creating a Community immigration policy — and you mentioned the case of the Canary Islands — began in Tampere and we must make a serious effort to speed it up.
Finally, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, last week in Geneva I had the opportunity to meet Mrs Lehtomäki, Minister for External Trade and Development, at the negotiations of the Doha Development Round. That is a very important challenge and it must be given concrete form during the Finnish Presidency. I believe that it must be given a prominent place on the agenda, in order to safeguard our future and take on our responsibilities.
Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, I am reassured by the Prime Minister’s determination to focus on the Balkans and advance their progress towards the EU. Prime Minister, I know this is a European not a Finnish project, but you are particularly well placed with your former President, Mr Ahtisaari, involved in the status talks on Kosovo and your former assistant, Olli Rehn, as the Commissioner for Enlargement. The EU has a heavy responsibility to get the balance right between encouragement, as in the case of visa facilitation which will be debated tonight, and pressure, for example on delivering war crime suspects to The Hague – particularly as regards the challenge in Kosovo. I am reassured by your energy in that direction.
Secondly, the EU is dysfunctional in the area of justice, home affairs and human rights. On the one hand, there are the delays and dilution of measures resulting from the national veto. Almost five years after agreeing on an EU anti-terrorism law, some Member States have still not implemented it. On the other hand, we talk a lot of rhetoric about human rights, we preach to third countries, but there are credible indications of complicity by many EU countries in illegal rendition and torture. We do not convict terrorists, but we are at best passive with regard to human rights breaches in the war on terror. This is a toxic mix and I ask you to look at the contrasts and contradictions in this area.
João de Deus Pinheiro (PPE-DE). – (PT) Mr President-in-Office of the Council, I find your programme clear, practical and credible, which has not been the case with all presidencies. Some of your priorities strike us as essential, including the issue of Russia and energy. We have to be clear on the Russia issue. There is no point in negotiating only with Russia on the issue of energy. Russia is an extremely important partner that we must bring into international affairs, because that way we can also influence human rights and democracy in that huge country.
A further priority that you put forward, with which we agree, is that of the Europe of results. This is an area that the President of the Commission has been pushing and that has been fought for, in spite of the difficulties with the Constitution. The Europe of results is closely associated with growth and employment. It must be said that the intergovernmental method that has been pursued for the Lisbon Strategy has led to disappointingly mediocre results. The Commission must be given the responsibilities and the resources that it needs to draw up a roadmap, whereby we can grow and can create more jobs, just as we have done for the internal market and the single currency. What is currently in place is not working and will be a further disappointment for our citizens.
Lastly, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, I feel the period of reflection on Europe in 2020 that you have suggested is most welcome. We have to start today to think about the Europe that we want in the future, and it is in this pragmatic, open and, hopefully, transparent vein that I have faith in this Finnish Presidency. I hope that at the end of the Presidency I can come here with words of congratulation for you.
Edite Estrela (PSE). – (PT) I shall not be going on the attack. I shall leave that to the Portuguese national team tonight, which I hope will beat France. You said, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, that we are living in a time of challenges, such as globalisation, climate and demographic challenges, and that we must look to the future with courage. We agree. The Lisbon Strategy will help us to meet these challenges and to realise the knowledge triangle of which Mr Barroso spoke.
The Lisbon Strategy is the best instrument at our disposal for modernising the European economy, for boosting employment, for creating more jobs and for delivering social cohesion. In other words, more and better Europe. Finland is a successful example of economic competitiveness based on knowledge and innovation. It is a shining example of modernisation and progress. The Finnish Presidency is therefore in an excellent position, and has a major responsibility, to provide impetus to the Lisbon Agenda. I should like to ask whether the Finnish Presidency is prepared to do this. My second question concerns the policy on equality between men and women. Finland has special responsibilities on this issue, too. What practical measures will Finland propose to the Council to promote equality between men and women at all levels?
József Szájer (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, as the European Union's newest members we have learnt a great deal from Finland, and from you personally. You have had recent experience of the accession process, which is why we are extremely confident that your Presidency will be sensitive to those concerns and problems associated with integration. In fact, the date of entry two years ago only marks the beginning. We have to continue to fight for the same treatment, equal rights within the European Union and for the same standards, after all, the great historical undertaking of reunifying Europe and trying to catch up is a long process.
This is clearly highlighted by the debate on the service directive or Lithuania's membership of the euro area, which provides a clear indication of the current uncertainties and, unfortunately, the distrust shown towards new members, as well as the application of double standards. This is why it is very important that when we are talking about the European Union's further expansion, we must not forget that it is also our job to deal with the impact of the last, and biggest expansion so far, in 2004, as well as to focus on the European Union's capacity.
The European Union's recent expansion, combined with current events, highlight how important it is to strengthen a common Europe's basic democratic values. In fact, a short time ago, Martin Schulz had some harsh words to say during the campaign against extremism; but not only can we speak out about it, we can do something about it too. You have among your ranks the Socialist Party that recently won the elections in Slovakia, which has chosen a partner whose main political message amounts to making attacks on minorities, such as Hungarians, Gypsies and gays.
This should sound alarm bells throughout the whole of Europe. It also draws attention to how poor the European Union is at defending minorities across the whole of Europe. This is why progress must be made in the planned European Human Rights Agency's activities during the Finnish Presidency. Finland, which pursues an exemplary minorities policy, must show us the way on this matter.
During the Finnish Presidency, 23rd October marks the 50th anniversary of the revolution, which involved a kindred people, the Hungarians. Nowadays we often talk about the European Union being in crisis. Let us help to renew the EU by drawing encouragement and strength from one of the 20th century's most significant struggles for freedom in resolving the problems we face today. I wish the Presidency every success!
Jan Andersson (PSE). – (SV) Mr President, Mr Vanhanen, Mr Barroso, I share the Finnish Presidency’s view of globalisation as a challenge. I also think it good that the Presidency has struck a balance between, on the one hand, flexibility and, on the other, social protection or security in the midst of change. I look forward to a solution being found to the Services Directive during the Finnish Presidency. This will be based on Parliament’s proposals, which have specifically achieved this balance between, on the one hand, openness and flexibility and, on the other, security in the labour market and protection for public services.
There is an issue that I think the Finnish Presidency should get to grips with. Parliament’s proposal and the proposal by the Commission and the Council make no mention of agencies that supply temporary workers. At the same time, such agencies are growing in importance all around Europe. There is a proposal from the Commission concerning agencies that supply temporary workers. We have responded to it, but it has been blocked by the Council. It is now time for the proposal to be unblocked so that we might obtain an agreement and a framework concerning these agencies. This is an area in which the Finnish Presidency can act.
I welcome the fact that you are taking the initiative concerning the Working Time Directive. This is also about achieving a balance between health and safety – no unduly long working hours – and, at the same time, flexibility. We in Parliament are convinced that, in order to achieve flexibility, no opt-out is needed. There are other instruments for promoting flexibility. I look forward to solutions in these areas and also share Mr Rasmussen’s view that solutions must be sought in cooperation with both sides of industry.
(Applause from various quarters)
Antonio Tajani (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Vanhanen, ladies and gentlemen, latine loquimur in Europa. We speak Latin in Europe. As a citizen of Rome and as a citizen of Europe, I am grateful to Finland for having taken the decision to inaugurate this half year's presidency of the Union in Latin, as well.
However, mine is more than just a formal expression of gratitude. The decision has a profound meaning: Roman civilisation, the heir to Greek civilisation, represented Europe’s first, crucial unifying element. The Latin language, the major infrastructure, the law, the huge internal market and, lastly, the pax augusta were the foundations into which Christianity, as the true bridge between Western and Eastern Europe, dug its roots.
An important European archaeologist and writer, Valerio Massimo Manfredi, wrote: ‘Rome was above all a great ideal.’ Paraphrasing those words, we could say: ‘Europe is above all a great ideal.’ We cannot give up on making this great ideal a reality, giving Europe basic legislation that will enable it to provide 450 million citizens with answers to the problems that concern them most: immigration, security, competitiveness with emerging countries, the energy issue, the definition of borders and job creation.
The President will have our support. Finland has the important task of continuing the work done by Austria and paving the way for the next half year under the German Presidency, which will be key to finally establishing the Constitutional Treaty that Europe needs in order to be closer to its citizens.
In Rome, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaties. Let us see to it that, like those who, in ancient times, took pride and felt secure in the guarantees they obtained from the institutions when becoming Roman citizens, any future European citizen, from whichever part of the world he or she comes, will also feel secure and take pride in living in an area in which human rights, peace, security and freedom are guaranteed and protected. Only then will we have met our challenge, and will the great ideal have become a reality.
Dariusz Rosati (PSE) – (PL) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, President of the Commission, it is with great pleasure that I accept the aims that the Finnish Presidency has set itself for the coming six months.
Translating words into action on the matter of the Constitution and further engagement in the matter of EU enlargement are key issues at a time when the EU is in the throes of an identity and leadership crisis. For that reason it is particularly important to strengthen collaboration on a common Eastern policy and a common energy policy. The issue of diversifying energy sources and supply lines is extremely important for the security of Europe’s energy supplies. The European Union must establish a joint and uniform standpoint on the issue of oil and gas supplies. It should not be assumed that building a single line from a single supplier means real diversification. Investment in renewable sources of energy and saving energy are necessary, but they will not be sufficient to cover growing demand. Europe must become politically and financially involved in projects looking for new sources of energy and conduct a joint policy, based on solidarity, towards suppliers.
I also attach a great deal of importance to Finland’s role in drawing up a common Eastern policy. Here connections with Russia should be instrumental in finding a golden mean for the EU’s Russia policy. I also look forward to the improvement and development of cooperation with Ukraine, as political support for Kiev will help to consolidate Ukraine’s pro-European policy. It will also be important to raise the issue of Belarus at international forums and in discussions with Russia.
Mr President, among many other things Finland is famous for its Finnish sauna. I hope that the Finnish Presidency will bring us, in the end, the same feeling of freshness and relaxation as one gets after spending an hour or two in a Finnish sauna.
Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the Finnish Presidency will not just be a transitional presidency, but a key presidency from the viewpoint of the EU’s most important strategy, the growth and jobs strategy. This will decide the future of Europe, but you have to start somewhere. In the revised Lisbon strategy, we decided that we need to start from research, innovation and technological progress. We will be unable to do this, Prime Minister Vanhanen, without launching the 7th Framework Programme on time. A common position of the European Council is needed as early as July to allow Parliament to start work on the second reading in September. I appeal to Prime Minister Vanhanen to ensure that this is done.
There has to be constant collaboration between the Council, the Commission and Parliament if we are to finish the job in November at the latest. However, what is important as well as the 7th Framework Programme is funding for research and innovation from national budgets. I wholly support Prime Minister Vanhanen’s statement on this. Our greatest weakness as Europeans is lack of innovation. I believe that the European Institute of Technology will be able to help us here.
We already have an excellent European education system, and we do not need to reproduce it. We have reasonable research, but we lack innovation and the latest technologies which are decisive to growth and employment and which are important for our strategy. A decision on the EIT is an important task for the Finnish Presidency. The triangle of knowledge – education, research and innovation – is Finland’s strongest card. The decisions on these matters have therefore come at the right time. We wish Prime Minister Vanhanen success.
Evelyne Gebhardt (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I am much obliged to Mr Vanhanen, who made it clear in his speech that he wishes to win over the public, to further the development of Europe and to move over to specific action. I congratulate him on this motto – it is a motto for the future, and has my full support.
We want specific projects, and the Services Directive is one such project. Mr Vanhanen has expressed the desire to conclude the Services Directive at second reading in autumn. I am confident that we can succeed in this, as the decision of the Council of Ministers to incorporate and further develop Parliament’s fundamental demands provides the basis for doing so. I am confident that it will prove possible to reach a compromise on the Services Directive under the Finnish Presidency. I should very much like to see this.
This is an expression of the common will to make a commitment to the community of values for the public. After all, that is what we want to achieve – and Mr Vanhanen expressed this very clearly in his speech: we want to develop the community of values, determine Europe’s future and ensure not only that we have a free internal market, including for services, but also that there is respect for citizens’ rights, labour law, social legislation, consumer protection and patient protection. That is what we want to achieve, and it is also the way to really ensure that citizens say ‘yes’ to Europe in future. That is the best thing we could achieve.
The matter of prime importance is the Constitution for Europe, and that is the best present that Mr Vanhanen could give himself on the 100th anniversary of the right to vote in Finland.
Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, Finland is the first Council Presidency since the enlargement of the European Union on 1 May 2004 to hail from the shores of the Baltic Sea, which the enlargement by eight countries has of course made a mare nostrum. The Finnish Presidency is therefore in a position to develop strategic dimensions that are also connected with the Northern Dimension, as there is also a non-Member State bordering on the Baltic Sea, namely Russia. Finland’s experience makes it particularly well placed to develop relations in this region that could be extremely constructive, and that also include issues such as security of energy supply. We are pinning our hopes on Finland in this matter.
My second point is that the Finnish Presidency, in cooperation with the Commission, must make at least the first attempts to achieve a new balance between enlargement and the European Union’s capacity to cope with this. We must hold out the prospect of EU membership to many countries, but this cannot always mean full membership. We must find other ways – and, in the Barroso paper, both the European Council and the Commission declared their intention to take essential initiatives in this matter. We shall wait until December and see how far we get with this discussion.
My third point is that history has shown that the EU is only strong where we have Community Europe, as only there is it capable of action, and only there does it show continuity. That is why an enlarged EU renders it particularly necessary to take the approach of a constitutional treaty.
I am obliged to the President-in-Office of the Council for committing himself to the ratification of this Constitutional Treaty. This matches the position of the subsequent German Presidency, which means that there should be constructive cooperation on drawing up the declaration to be made by Germany at the end of its Presidency. I think I can even say that this should be the position of all the Community institutions, in order to enable the Constitutional Treaty – with regard to which we need to be much more imaginative – to enter into force in 2009. Cherry-picking will be of no help to us here, as it would destroy the approach we have to take of explaining to the public in persuasive terms why we need a constitutional treaty – which gives it more rights and brings greater transparency. We need not only a Europe that works, but also a Europe of democracy and transparency. That is why this Constitutional Treaty is so important.
Guido Sacconi (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Vanhanen, ladies and gentlemen, you, Mr Vanhanen, like the President of the Barroso Commission, often referred in your speech to the need to give a boost to the Europe of results in order to regain the citizens' trust, naturally without pitting this Europe against the Europe of values and of the Constitution.
When it comes to dividing up the work that exists in this Parliament, I, as rapporteur for REACH, belong to the category of sherpas, of those who work to deliver results, like my colleague, Mrs Gebhardt. For this reason, I very much welcomed the fact that you have included among the priorities of your Presidency the conclusion of the legislative process on REACH and that you have done so by including it in the ‘competitiveness’ chapter.
The main purpose of REACH is, of course, to protect human health and the environment, but it is also a powerful incentive for innovation. From this perspective, both the Council and Parliament have done an excellent job over the years of work that we have behind us, because they have reconciled their positions to a great extent and have made this instrument much more usable, and have done so, too, in an effort to boost innovation.
I am sure that, under your Presidency, an agreement at second reading will be possible. Both legislators will nevertheless have to make progress. A small amount of progress, since there has already been a great deal of convergence, but progress will still always have to be made. I am saying this to you because there will be those who advise you to stand firm and make no concessions. I, on the other hand, am willing to make progress and I am sure that you will be too.
Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, Mr Vanhanen, Mr Barroso, as a representative of Sweden, which is not only a neighbouring country but also a sister country, I should like to say that the prospect of the Finnish Presidency fills me with pride and high hopes. We have, to the very highest degree, not only an overlapping history and geography but also a shared experience of the present. We became members of the European Union at the same time and are still counted as being among the new Member States, with all the freshness of approach that that can bring with it. We have seen how enlargement of the European Union in recent years has totally changed our world thanks to European cooperation, in the context of which the Baltic Sea is now eminently a sea that links countries together.
We have an internationalised economy, which is manifestly a precondition for prosperity and employment rather than a threat to our prosperity. We have an economy whose individual strands are becoming ever more closely interwoven. We are also cooperating on establishing a common battle group, which is the only thing that unites small countries. Finland is also an example for those of us who expect a lot from your Presidency. I am thinking of Finnish energy policy, in which you can combine increased competitiveness and reduced dependency on surrounding countries with greater attention to the environment and to the Kyoto objectives.
I am thinking of Finland’s unique ability to handle relations with Russia, giving this Presidency an opportunity to lay the basis for a sound policy on Russia for the whole of the European Union. I am thinking of our experiences of enlargement, which oblige Finland resolutely and single-mindedly to take the issue of continued enlargement forward, with not only clear demands being made but also a clear objective pursued, partly with a view to its being possible for Turkey to become a member of the EU. With characteristic openness and single-mindedness, Finland should also, of course, ensure that it turns the European Union into a form of cooperation that is open, transparent and easily accessible to its citizens. I wish you good luck. High demands are being made because a clear example has been set.
Lasse Lehtinen (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, many in this House are of the opinion that the Union’s credibility in the eyes of the people needs improving. For that reason, Finland, during its Presidency, wants to see confidence-inspiring action which has importance for people’s everyday lives.
The people have a right to expect cross-border cooperation to be implemented in all aspects of life, including, for example, the fight against crime, and not just the internal market. Criminals move freely from one country to another and network across national borders. On the other hand, the police authorities in the Member States fail to maintain contact with each other and lack mutual trust. The criminals have too much of a head start. That is why Finland needs the support of the other Member States and this Parliament for its work when the decision-making process in justice and home affairs is being improved.
IN THE CHAIR: MR BORRELL FONTELLES President
Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I agree, Prime Minister, with the Europe of results. For many people war was a very long time ago and they take peace for granted. The European Union must therefore win the citizens’ confidence by achieving tangible results with regard to today’s problems. I would therefore like your Presidency to achieve greater successes, better results.
The European Union must serve to tackle trans-national threats, such as terrorism and organised crime, and to calm the citizens' fears about globalisation. It must also help to properly manage migratory flows, including effectively fighting illegal immigration. This is a dramatic and topical issue in my country – you have mentioned the case of the Canary Islands – and in other countries of Southern Europe. It leads to great suffering and the loss of human lives.
I therefore hope that during this six-month period this problem will be treated as a priority, and not just Russia and energy. It seems to me very appropriate that Finland should now be taking over the Presidency and that it should make progress on a European immigration policy. The Tampere European Council represented an historic milestone in the construction of the area of freedom, security and justice.
Mr President, the conclusions of the Seville and Thessaloniki European Councils stated that the issue of migratory flows should start to occupy a prominent place in the European Union’s relations with third countries. This seems to me to be a fundamental element in the approach we should take.
The Union must demand that countries of origin and transit cooperate closely in the fight against the drama of illegal immigration and in the ordered management of these flows. It must ask them for – and help them to achieve - better border controls, more effective combating of mafias and readmission agreements. There are things to do in our countries as well, including putting an end to unilateral legalisation measures and improving the material and human resources at our external borders.
Funds are also needed and I regret that of every one hundred euros budgeted for in the financial perspective just fifty cents are allocated to immigration issues.
Finally, I shall briefly mention another of your Presidency’s priorities: enlargement. This six-month period will be the final stage in Romania and Bulgaria's efforts to join the Union on 1 January 2007. This is the common objective that we all share and I trust that the report that the Commission will present at the beginning of the autumn will confirm that date.
Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, Prime Minister, Mr President of the Commission, I wish to make three points.
Firstly, I will speak about the Presidency. The Presidency needs three things to succeed. First it must be well prepared. The Finns have once again prepared themselves admirably. Secondly, it must be objective. The Finnish Presidency will once again be an excellent, objective one. We also need a little luck with the agenda and I think we have some.
The other point relates to transparency. I would like to make a concrete proposal for the Lahti Summit. I suggest that the first three speeches, yours and those of the President of the Commission and the President of the European Parliament, are shown on camera to us all openly.
I will make the third and final point in English in order to get it across: it has to do with competitiveness and football.
There is an interesting correlation. In the World Cup the more competitive you are in football, perhaps you are slightly less competitive in the economy; the more competitive you are in the economy, the less competitive you are in football. My proposal to Prime Minister Vanhanen for Euro 2008 is: please keep the Finnish economy competitive and push our team through to Euro 2008 as well. Those two things can go hand in hand.
Good luck to the Presidency.
Matti Vanhanen, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, I kept diplomatically quiet on the subject of football. Our task, however, that of the Council, Parliament and the Commission, is to ensure that the world’s four – or preferably 25 – best are European: that is our common responsibility.
I tend to agree with many of your assessments and opinions regarding my speech and my style of presentation. I am perhaps slightly civil servant-like and it may well be that I tend to make lists, but I do not intend to change my style. I know that I will not get away with rhetoric with hardly any of you and I am not even going to try. Nevertheless, this debate has showed that there are such passionate views on many of these European issues that perhaps it is going to take a cool head to reconcile them all. This might be a better solution than strident rhetoric.
In this I have received very much good advice and guidance. I cannot now comment on all your speeches. I would like to start, however, with Mr Titley’s speech, as he is a sort of godfather to us. Some time ago, he drafted a report on the Finnish Presidency and was the first Member of the European Parliament whose acquaintance I briefly made when we were on the same committee jointly set up by the Finnish Eduskunta and the European Parliament. He gave me some good advice: action, action, and action. That will also hopefully describe the Finnish Presidency.
Mr Poettering made the apt comment that the presidencies form a six-month chain. It is therefore also natural that the same issues that you have heard many times will appear on the Finnish Presidency’s agenda. If I remember, one of you grumbled about this. This chain is necessary. You sit in the European Parliament for five years. The Commission sits for five years. There is a natural long-term aspect to all this among you. For the Council, the long-term aspect has to be established through mutual cooperation between the presidencies, because we need continuity. We have to devote our energies to that.
We need the involvement of everyone in next spring’s 50-year anniversary festivities and declaration, and I have welcomed those ideas that have been put forward here in this part-session. I agree with Mr Schulz’s powerfully expressed view that the Union needs those tools which we can use to respond to all the challenges that are important to us. To his comments on the need for enlargement and a new treaty I reply that there is not the slightest conflict of opinion between Commission President Barroso and myself. As it is, we have the mechanisms for enlargement, but everyone knows that common sense says that we also need a new treaty, at least in the longer term. Thank you to Mr Schulz and Mr Watson for your support and for the firm but healthy pressure you exerted in order that we should achieve progress in decision-making under the third pillar.
Mr Cohn-Bendit made the criticism that I did not raise the issue of legal immigration. It occupies a position of importance in our programme and I mentioned it. I mentioned it in connection with factors relating to Europe’s success. We also need legal immigration for Europe to succeed. It is one path towards European success in global competition in the future.
Mr Seppänen criticised Finland’s aim to ratify the Constitution, saying that we do not respect the results of the French and Dutch referendums. We certainly do, but we also respect Finland’s right to adopt a position itself on the negotiated Treaty, that broad-based compromise which was at one time reached.
We also have the right to express our views on it and we do so with reference to our own constitution and the consideration of matters and ratification procedures which it establishes.
Mr Crowley made special mention of new sources of energy, and I fully agree with what he said in his speech.
Mr Farage said that a common asylum policy in Europe is laughable. It is not. On the contrary, we need a common asylum policy. That is exactly what Europe needs, as with a lot of other things which are vitally necessary in internal and legal affairs.
It is with regard to these very issues that we need an area of freedom and justice. We need common standards and common regulations, and we need common action very much along the same lines. We need both cooperation between our countries and a clear mandate for the European Union.
Mr Paasilinna raised the sensitive question as to whether energy policy is for some in the world a weapon. That question is raised very frequently. Our reply is that energy policy should not be used as a weapon in global policy. On the contrary, the EU line should be that energy policy is a normal part of business. It must be business-based, and should clearly work both ways and give the same rights to all concerned parties. It must be based on long-term, reliable agreements and market prices. This way, when we act we can benefit from one another. The energy policy between the EU and Russia in particular is part of a strategic partnership. Russia needs European technology and the money that we spend as well, and we need Russian energy. This partnership can serve to improve both the EU’s and Russia’s success globally.
Mrs Jäätteenmäki made special mention of transparency and I fully agree with what she said when she remarked that what was most important was public access to documents. We are expecting the Commission to produce a document to debate on the review of a Community Regulation on transparency, and, during our Presidency, we will submit it as a topic of discussion in the Council.
Furthermore, everything that was said on the issue of climate change in the debate, including what Mrs Hassi said, will be taken into consideration.
Mr Kirkhope stressed the importance of assessing the effects of legislation. This is also a fundamental part of this policy of better regulation. This will be the responsibility of the Commission, the Council and Parliament: all those involved in legislative work. We must consider our legislative work a basis for impact assessments. As I said in my speech, they relate to both the effects on our competitiveness and the environment and the effects on social welfare. This needs to be part of the normal legislative process.
Mr Swoboda’s speech on the issue of Turkey was a wise one. I fully support what Commission President Barroso drew attention to regarding Turkish negotiations in his speech.
Mr Pflüger described Finland as neutral. I must correct him on that: Finland is a member of the EU. We were at one time a politically neutral country, during the time of the Iron Curtain. Now we are a member of the Union, part of this community of values, which has a common policy and, moreover, a common foreign policy.
He criticised the fact that we are leading the Union into military ventures and mentioned, by way of example, the operation we have begun in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is all about ensuring that there are democratic elections. That is just the sort of task that the Union should be engaged in. It gives firm support to those basic values which our existence relies on.
Mr Rasmussen mentioned the extraordinary social summit which we are holding and the fact that in choosing between flexibility and security the people need to feel that they have security. This will be an exacting task when we are introducing reforms. In responding to the challenge of globalisation we need to be able to make reforms in such a way that we also lead the world in terms of the economy and employment, but that has to happen in such a way that the people too can have confidence in it. In this respect, the social partners have an especially important role to play. At that summit we mean to speak a little about the model of consensus which Finland, for its own part, has used with some success to achieve certain kinds of results.
Finally in this regard, I will address Mrs Estrela’s question on equality. The introduction of a regulation on the founding of a Gender Equality Institute is now being considered. Hopefully we will achieve a result there. Similarly, during our Presidency we will focus attention on such issues as the trafficking of, and violence against, women.
Mr Buzek mentioned what in fact is the most important of the Finnish Presidency’s priorities: innovation policy. The Seventh Framework Programme is an important component of that. The EIT is an important initiative and a suitable structure needs to be found for it. In general, however, during this six-month term you will be hearing the phrase innovation policy over and over again. That is the message we want to drum home in the Union. Moreover, if there is something I hope the Finnish Presidency will be remembered for, it will be that we never stopped talking about innovation policy and how important it is. In fact, Mr Buzek gave a very graphic description of the sort of elements innovation policy should embrace.
Then, regarding Mr Brok’s speech on the importance of the Baltic region, I have to remind you that it is now a common sea. I was happy to note what you had to say, and we intend to keep the issue of the Baltic a current one. The progress we are making on the Northern Dimension is enough to provide us with the tools we need to improve the situation regarding the Baltic too.
To Mr Hökmark of Sweden I can only say that for 700 years we were the same country as Sweden, and in a few years’ time we will be celebrating the fact that we went our separate ways. Now for the last 11 years, on the other hand, we have been part of the same community within the framework of the Union and we enjoy a very close partnership.
I would like to end with a comment on Mr Millán Mon’s speeches on the situation in the Canary Islands. Hopefully there is something symbolic about the fact that Finland, the northernmost country in the Union, has wanted even to send a border patrol and a surveillance aircraft to the Canary islands to help and demonstrate solidarity, and show that the problems that we have in different parts of Europe, even with regard to illegal immigration, are shared by all of us. We need to show solidarity within the Union. These are issues which we all have in common. I would also like the Finnish Presidency to act in such a spirit in the Union over the next six months.
Thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to speak here in Parliament, and I hope that we will enjoy the most fruitful cooperation with Parliament, its committees and its political groups over the next six months.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think that all the important points have already been made, but I hope that you will just allow me to stress one or two points, returning in particular to questions that were raised during the debate.
First of all, we are very much in favour of the approach referred to as the 'Europe of results', but let me make it clear that the Europe of results is not an alternative to the Europe of values, but, on the contrary, the means of strengthening adhesion to those values. It is a question of taking two paths at the same time, each of which can strengthen the other. Our vision of a Europe supporting real projects is very much built on the idea that we need to strengthen the conditions needed to create a Europe with a dimension of social cohesion and justice, a Europe with a political vision, a Europe that is willing to use its weight, to exert its influence and to promote its values throughout the world. That is why we think it is important to follow these two paths at the same time.
To respond to the question I was asked regarding the link between enlargement and constitutional reform, I have said many times that Nice is not enough. In an enlarged Europe – and we are already an enlarged Europe – we need to reform the institutions to make them more effective and more democratic, and to improve the coherency of Europe's actions in the world.
In addition, the Constitutional Treaty negotiated between the Member States was already designed for the Europe of 25, which gives added strength to the idea that a Europe of 27 or more Member States will need institutional reform. That, indeed, is the Commission's position.
With regard to the specific priorities of this Presidency, I would like to stress something that emerged very clearly from the debate: the importance attached to innovation. We think that the Lahti Summit could be a great moment for Europe if the Heads of State or Government can actually now agree to produce concrete results as part of the innovation agenda. As several of you emphasised here today, Europe has many excellent universities and research institutions, but it lacks the capacity to translate all this activity into more concrete results for the economy and for the competitiveness of our continent. We therefore need to improve the connection between knowledge, science and research, on the one hand, and concrete results, on the other, and innovation is the key to that. Finland can use its considerable experience and its specific authority to help us to produce concrete results.
Another field in which our actions are going to be judged over the next six months is that of freedom, security and justice. This debate has made it clear that there is broad support for the idea that we must do more at Community level, too. There is, of course, an intergovernmental dimension – we could do more in terms of cooperation between the governments – but we also need a Community dimension in certain domains, such as the management of both legal and illegal immigration. The problems currently being experienced by some of our Member States, such as Spain, are not just their problem, but are shared by the whole of Europe. It is clear, in these circumstances, that we cannot separate legal and illegal immigration, and that we need a European approach in this area.
I think that, on this matter, all of us – the Finnish Presidency, the Member States and us – are going to be judged at the end of these six months on our willingness to produce, on the basis of the existing treaties, better results in terms of security and justice, including, of course, when it comes to immigration.
Another issue that Parliament regards as extremely important, and that is also a priority for the Finnish Presidency, is energy, and, in this field, we must make ourselves quite clear, particularly with regard to relations with Russia.
First of all, we are in favour of a constructive partnership with Russia with regard to energy, but, as was clear from the strategic paper prepared by the Commission, we do not simply propose to develop good relations with Russia, but also to diversify. The solution to Europe's energy problems is diversification: diversification of the country of origin, the country of supply and the country of transit, and also diversification of our sources of energy, in particular by increasing investment in renewable energy. So, the solution for energy is to diversify, and not to lock ourselves into a relationship with a single partner, however important that partner may be.
Secondly, and still with regard to relations with Russia, let us be quite clear: in the negotiation mandate that we presented to the Council regarding our relations with that country, the first point on the list is not energy, or even trade – no, the first point relates to human rights, respect for democracy and respect for the rule of law. That is the precondition for developing a special partnership with a country with which we do, of course, want to build a relationship, a country that also wants to build a relationship with us.
If I may, I would like to make one final point regarding the continuity on which Mr Vanhanen spoke so eloquently. It is true that we, the European Parliament and the Commission, have a five-year mandate, and that the various Presidencies each have a specific purpose, but there is sometimes a problem of continuity over time, as was also identified during the negotiations regarding the constitutional treaty. On this point, I think we are starting to make progress, as the Austrian Presidency showed. The Presidencies are all connected, and it is a very positive sign that the constitutional issue of the granting of a mandate has been clearly raised. On this subject, I support the pragmatic approach determined by results, and also the constructive approach chosen by the Finnish Presidency.
Ladies and gentlemen, when we were talking about a Europe of results, we did not know that the football was so soon going to show Europe's ability to be the best in terms of results. Some of you gave in to the temptation to use the football World Cup to show that we can, in this field too, be proud of our results, but I think, as you have stressed, that, when it comes to the economy, competitiveness, our competition-based model and our values, we can and must produce more results. I am sure that we will be able to do so during the Finnish Presidency.
President. The debate is closed.
Written statements (Rule 142)
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Despite a slight Nordic twist here and there, the focus of the Finnish Presidency emphasises the old, recurring themes of the EU, with the accent placed on completing the internal market, liberalising the market for services, competition, the well-trodden path of the Bolkestein Directive; in other words, the priorities of the employers’ organisations, with UNICE at the helm. The social aspects that will be adversely affected by the liberalisation policies, and by the deepening of the internal market for services, continue to be treated as though of secondary importance.
Furthermore, apart from that sprinkling of Nordic flavour and its relations with Russia, its close neighbour, the emphasis has been placed on militarisation and on taking the option of intervention in crisis situations, rather than a policy of autonomy on US foreign policy. Indeed, the Presidency has promised to place the accent on intervention in justice and internal affairs, which, in view of the Commission’s agenda, underlines our concerns as regards the development of a 'Fortress Europe' immigration policy.
We expect very little from this Presidency and are not prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, as we are opposed to most of its policies.
Katalin Lévai (PSE). – (HU) During its period the Austrian Presidency has faced some real challenges, now Helsinki has to face some of these aspects too. One which is deservedly prominent among them is the future of the Constitutional Treaty, which requires more consultation and a higher profile.
I would like to welcome the initiative from Finland, which envisages better legislation, in addition to compliance with the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity. We should make new decisions, as well as update the old ones, taking into consideration economic, environmental, but mainly social aspects.
I agree with President Barroso when he says that the sense of balance the Finns have can bring some harmony to the EU's stormy political climate by guaranteeing an opportunity to promote the innovative policies of the European Union. Increasing researcher and student mobility, along with consolidating European know-how are basic elements in making this progress.
It is already extremely important for Europe's citizens to be familiar with the EU's institutional system, how it operates, and with the decisions that have an impact on their lives. Therefore, I greatly applaud the Finnish Presidency's ambition to bring about an EU which supports cooperation within its institutions and communicates more effectively with its citizens. I also agree with regulating national veto rights in order to make implementation more effective.
I support Helsinki's policy on human rights, which highlights the need to adopt a united approach to defending human and basic civil liberties. I feel it is important to adopt a common approach to preventing illegal immigration, especially the trafficking in human beings and worker exploitation.
The European Union can only successfully respond to the growing challenges of globalisation by consolidating Europe's democracies and producing a well-structured social policy.