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Debates
Monday, 21 February 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

13. Commission legislative and work programme (2005) (continuation of debate)
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  President. The next item is the debate on the Commission’s legislative and work programme (2005), a debate which began in Brussels on 26 January 2005.

Mr Barroso has the floor.

 
  
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  Barroso, President of the Commission. (PT) Mr President, eminent Members of the European Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, before I address you on the Commission’s legislative and work programme for 2005, I should like briefly to express my satisfaction with the results of yesterday’s referendum on the European Constitution in Spain and I shall try to do this in Spanish.

(ES) The Spanish people have said yes to the European Constitution, a clear and resounding yes.

(Applause)

I would like to express to you the European Commission’s satisfaction with this result. Spain has said yes to a Europe united in its diversity. I would like to thank everybody who has participated in the referendum process with such commitment, in particular all the Members of this Parliament who have contributed with their voices and opinions to achieving this significant result. In this regard, I called the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, yesterday to congratulate him and thank him for the great commitment demonstrated by his government during the referendum campaign.

This ‘yes’, expressed clearly and unreservedly, opens the way for the other European citizens who will also be called upon to express their opinions on the European Constitution over the coming months.

This has been a very important step in the process of ratifying the European Constitution, which the Commission believes to be the only instrument which will allow us Europeans to consolidate our ideas of peace, prosperity, solidarity and security in Europe.

Mr President, one month ago I presented the Commission's proposed strategic objectives, designed to guide European action until the end of the decade. This is a political roadmap based on three pillars: prosperity, solidarity and security. Being mutually reinforcing, they address the concrete and challenging concerns of European citizens. I also presented the first delivery of the strategic objectives: the legislative work programme for this year. Let me remind you of some of its most important elements.

First of all, the programme is more focused in political terms. The proposed initiatives are structured around the three strategic objectives and their external dimension, and represent a first concrete translation of the balanced approach pursued by the Commission. This applies to new initiatives as well as areas where we propose to reinforce an existing action.

Second, the Commission is fully committed to delivering its work programme. For this purpose, the Commission intends to adopt a list of just over 100 priority initiatives by the end of the year.

Finally, we do not only want to deliver on time – we also want to deliver in a better way. We want to be serious about the principles of better regulation. This means ensuring quality of legislation; respect for the principles of proportionality, subsidiarity and added value; and widespread use of impact assessments.

In addition to this work programme, I announced that the Commission will regularly inform the Parliament about its planning agenda for legislative proposals in preparation. I am happy to be able to say that this information channel is now operational.

In the meantime, the Commission has gone further in implementing its proposals. On 2 February, I presented to you our proposals for a mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy. By focusing on growth and jobs, it aims to create the conditions for proper living standards, social justice for all and environmental sustainability. On 6 January and 2 February we had an initial exchange of views.

I was pleased to hear that, broadly speaking, the Commission's proposals met many of the expectations and concerns of Members of this House. I welcome the detailed motions for resolutions tabled today by the political groups on the work programme. When we talk about partnership, dialogue and consultation, we know that we will not always agree on everything. As in any partnership, the important thing is to have positions on the table clearly spelt out, and to work together to achieve common objectives.

I would like to comment briefly on some of the important issues raised in the comments and motions for resolutions.

First, actions count more than words. The European Union has a responsibility to turn its aspirations into reality. It must promote prosperity, cohesion and social justice, both at home and beyond our borders. The Commission is fully committed to this task. We have already started to work towards this goal by implementing our work programme for 2005: we are on track.

Second, competitiveness and social cohesion need to go hand in hand. We all know that striking a balance is difficult. I want the Commission to be helpful in this regard. This requires listening carefully to your opinions and contributions.

Take the REACH initiative, for example. Let me assure you that we have taken due note of the concerns expressed. We all agree on the need to protect the safety of individuals and the environment properly. On the other hand, we should also address the fear that certain elements of the proposal would put a key European industry in serious difficulty without adding real value in the fields of health and the environment. Throughout the legislative process, we will continue to look into further possibilities to refine and improve the balance between regulation and competitiveness.

With regard to the draft services directive, here too we are pursuing an aim which commands general support – the completion of the single market for services by 2010. Again I can assure you that we have taken due note of the concerns expressed. I am fully convinced that, via the legislative process, we will be able to settle upon an instrument which will tap the single market's hidden potential without jeopardising legitimate public interest objectives.

Let us do this on an informed basis and dispel the myths. Our proposals do not call into question the responsibility of Member States when it comes to organising and financing key public services as required by their societal needs, nor do they undermine the rules on the posting of workers as laid down in the directive.

Finally, I shall mention the Stability and Growth Pact. The Commission is committed to helping improve the pact and ensuring it fully complies with the Treaty. The improvements proposed by the Commission aim to increase its economic rationale and refine its implementation. We want better incentives to foster 'good policies' in 'good times'. We want a better definition of the medium-term objectives of fiscal policy by taking into account elements such as the debt level and the up-front costs of structural reforms. We want to avoid undesirable fiscal restraint in a downturn, because, ultimately, we want our budgets to be in a position to enhance prosperity by focusing expenditure on growth-oriented sectors and by investing for the future.

These are not academic issues – this is about quality of life, people's opportunities to earn a living and reap the benefits of their savings and pensions. This is about the chances of current and future generations to lead as full a life as they can legitimately expect to.

As part of this balanced approach, the Commission has made progress via its recently adopted proposal on the revised social agenda for the period up to 2010. This shows the Commission's full commitment to modernising and developing European social systems, to tackling social exclusion and poverty, and to attaining the target of more and better jobs.

When liberalising markets, individuals must not be forgotten. That is why last week we adopted two new proposals to strengthen passengers' rights. This brings me to a key issue: the European Union needs to be given sufficient financial means to act. Cohesion policy is and must remain central to the purpose of the Union. Without solidarity, we can never be united. It is an essential complement to competitiveness and the Lisbon Strategy – raising prosperity levels in the less-developed regions of the Union benefits the Union as a whole.

We should also bear in mind that there are now 25 Member States. The new Member States are waiting for tangible proof of our solidarity. This is why our proposals for a new generation of cohesion policies for the next Financial Perspective are of critical importance for the Union, both economically and politically. We cannot afford to see our obligations in this area watered down.

In addition, the Commission is currently preparing its third package of proposals for the next Financial Perspective, which are based on a careful examination of their European added value with respect to providing citizens with opportunities that complement national approaches or fill existing gaps. This set of instruments will include proposals on the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development; consumer protection and public health; energy – including renewable energy sources; competitiveness and innovation in respect of freedom, security and justice.

The Commission is doing its work, but making these proposals a reality will very much depend on the terms of the agreement on the Financial Perspectives expected by June. As I said before, I do not see how the Commission can contribute to a Europe which aims to do more, but with less resources.

(FR) Honourable Members, sustainable development and the issue of climate change are both firmly rooted in the Commission’s agenda. Although we are delighted that the Kyoto Protocol has come into force, we cannot however stop there. On 9 February, we adopted a communication on sustainable development and another entitled ‘Winning the battle against global climate change’. These proposals supplement those relating to the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy. Alongside the economic pillar, the sustainable development strategy and the new social agenda constitute two other supplementary pillars upon which our strategy for the next five years will be based.

Naturally, we must also look beyond our borders. We shall be able this year to take stock of the progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The situation is clearly disappointing. The European Union can and must make a larger contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Next month, we shall publish our contribution to the current review exercise. We must be more dynamic and more imaginative in giving concrete expression to our Monterrey Commitments. In doing so, our main priority will be Africa, and we intend to propose specific new initiatives for Africa.

Multilateralism and the reinforced Neighbourhood Policy are also priorities for the Commission. Renewed involvement in the peace process in the Middle East and revitalising transatlantic relations are also key objectives. When we meet President Bush tomorrow, we shall share with him our wish for effective multilateralism and our commitment to work for peace and provide humanitarian aid wherever required.

We all share the belief that it is our action for the benefit of Europeans that is the source of legitimacy for our daily work. Increasing public involvement is a priority for the Commission and, in order to fulfil this duty, we shall propose a specific programme within the framework of the Financial Perspective. By providing people with simple and transparent information on the subject, they will be in a better position to understand what is at stake in Europe and to form opinions. All the Commissioners – including, principally, Vice-President Wallström, whose particular area this is – have undertaken to exert themselves in this area.

Allow me, in conclusion, to explain how the Commission, of which I have the honour of being President, intends to meet these shared challenges and address these shared concerns. The method we will use will be partnership, particularly between the European institutions. I should like to repeat what I have already said on many occasions before this House, namely that I intend to develop a constructive rapport between the Commission and the European Parliament. I was delighted to see, during the debate of 26 January, that President Juncker and many Members of this House agree on the importance of working together on the strategic objectives proposed by the Commission. This would be an unprecedented step towards greater coherence in the action taken by the EU.

Finally, the Commission wants to work very closely with Parliament in the spirit of the proposed partnership. Vice-President Wallström will be present tomorrow at the Conference of Committee Chairmen, and this within the framework of what the Commission wishes to be a permanent and regular dialogue concerning the issues that have priority for us, from the points of view both of programming and of establishing political priorities.

To summarise, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I want the Work Programme for 2005 to be the first achievement of the partnership I am proposing to you for the renewal of Europe. I shall be happy to hear now your comments and suggestions regarding its content.

 
  
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  Grossetête (PPE-DE), on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (FR) Mr President, we are very happy that President Barroso has been able to join us and that we are able to examine with him this 2005 programme, the presentation of which has been delayed, albeit for reasons of which we are aware.

Mr Barroso, we know that you will do everything to bring about even greater effectiveness. Your programme is ambitious, and we have every confidence in you – confidence that we should very much like to re-affirm, as you have been an attentive listener, specifically to ourselves. Indeed, you took the initiative to review the Directive on Services in order to take account of our concerns. The same applies to REACH, as you have just explained to us.

We must therefore concentrate on the key issues, namely growth and employment. Fewer laws and better lawmaking will be the main thrust of our work. I know that we are on the same wavelength as you on this subject. You also spoke to us about actions to be taken. Productivity in Europe is increasing half as fast as in the United States, where the average growth in investment is 5.4% per year, compared with 1.7% for European investments.

What our fellow citizens are waiting for are, in fact, practical changes that can be described in simple terms: seeing purchasing power increase and no longer needing to fear unemployment or relocation. It is therefore with impatience that we await your framework programme for competitiveness and innovation, including precise objectives and pre-arranged meetings.

Increasing growth and employment means relying upon innovation and research and, above all, reconciling environmental and industrial policies. These two policies are not contradictory, in fact quite the opposite is true; they are complementary. Environmental considerations are not constraints or obstacles. They are assets and present an opportunity for our economy. Europe must therefore opt for eco-innovation and cutting-edge technologies in order to meet a demand for high added value products that our competitors cannot satisfy.

Thanks to its high environmental standards, the European Union stimulates innovation and increases the competitive ability of European industry. I have in mind the development of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power, of biofuels and of clean forms of transport – all sectors that offer our industries a real opportunity in terms of employment and exports. We note your proposals in this area with interest, particularly the regulation on the measures to be taken to combat forms of air pollution.

Viable economic development and renewed growth depend above all upon both the health of our companies and the health of the men and women who make our economy work. We value that part of your programme concerning health and consumer policy. Europe must also anticipate the possible threats from major scourges and combat the new epidemics and resistance to antibiotics. It is therefore with great interest that we await the proposal for a directive aimed at putting Community measures in place to combat avian influenza. We shall have to act quickly and effectively.

Regarding demographic development in Europe, the Green Paper must quickly be followed up by practical measures involving, for example, lifelong learning, health systems that can be relied upon over time and research into neurodegenerative diseases. As far as solidarity policy is concerned, it is only right that the new Member States should benefit from these programmes, but do not forget that the funds in question also convey the image of the European Union across all the Member States. It is therefore vital for all the countries to have access to these forms of structural aid.

We also call for greater efficiency in the way in which Member States follow up each other’s judicial decisions, although, on this subject, we were still awaiting the results of the codecision provided for by the Constitution. We know that all this should help improve Europeans’ mobility. In particular, we must also improve young people’s mobility by facilitating university exchanges and having people benefit from the terrific experience constituted by career routes to the professions.

We are ambitious, and so are you. We wish to develop and improve working conditions with a view to putting practical measures in place and improving work-life balance. That is how we shall be able to fulfil the objective that the EU must pursue, so enhancing the whole of European society. The European Commission must be visionary in its initiating role.

In the field of policy, we would emphasise Euro-Mediterranean relations. Euro-Mediterranean policy must be much stronger and be accorded priority. In the same way, we must turn our attention to our European borders.

In conclusion, I should like to say to you that political will must be reflected in a Financial Perspective that is evaluated for what it really is. The Member States cannot ask more of Europe while giving less. What, therefore, we now need is political energy for kick-starting the engine that drives our efforts – efforts that are the basis of our work. You have that energy. We shall be at your side in that spirit of constructive rapport you mentioned.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KAUFMANN
Vice-President

 
  
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  Schulz (PSE), on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the speech we have just heard was not a speech from the European People’s Party, but from the French Gaullists. Mrs Grossetête, given the substance of your speech, I cordially invite you to join us, and we shall quickly secure majorities for socially responsible policies in the European Union. I saw the profound shock in the eyes of my fellow Member, Mr Poettering, and it was a real treat to observe his reaction.

President Barroso, I am delighted that you have managed to be with us in spite of the present demands on your time. I want to make that very clear. We are all aware of the problems you experienced in London with your flight. Your presence here augurs well for cooperation between the Commission and the European Parliament. Let me emphasise that. But enough of these pleasantries, for I also have one or two remarks to make that I believe you will be less happy to hear.

I do not wish to return to the issue of whether it was right or wrong for you to appear in an advert for the PSD in Portugal. That is in the past now. I would like to make a serious proposal, however, with regard to the negotiations on the framework agreement. We must make a decision. There is a provision in the framework agreement between Parliament and the Commission which clearly states that Commissioners are not forbidden to engage in political activities in their home countries, provided they discuss the activity beforehand with the President of the Commission, who either gives his consent to whatever is necessary for the performance of the activity or expresses his misgivings.

There is no rule, however, for the President, although his conduct should, of course, be exemplary. I personally have no problem whatsoever with the principle that the Commissioners, or you as President of the Commission, have a set of political views and can air those views in public. I am well aware of where your political affiliation lies. It goes without saying that you are not required to go around hypocritically pretending that your election to the presidency of the Commission has made you politically neutral. I believe it is only right that you should continue to uphold your views, but the same rule must apply to the President and the Commissioners alike, whether it authorises or forbids all of you to engage in national politics. Saying ‘yes’ to some and ‘no’ to others is unacceptable. This is why I suggest that we clarify this matter in the framework agreement.

A second remark, Mr President; in our most recent discussion of your work programme, I said on behalf of our group that we saw the glass as half full. I said this because we had seen encouraging signs that you were heeding the appeals which we Socialists had been making to you and your Commission.

Then, a few days later, I found an interview with you in the Financial Times in which you took a completely different line from the one you had presented when you addressed this Parliament. ‘Economy is in the front seat’, you were now saying. No! Social coherence is in the front seat – at least for us Socialists, Mr President – and we shall not release you from your obligations on this score. You presented a work programme with Socialist elements but then gave an interview in the Financial Times which went in the very opposite direction. Later, Mr Špidla presented a paper to which we Socialists can heartily subscribe, but this was followed by comments in the press by Mrs Hübner which we find absolutely impossible to accept.

You made it to the Berlaymont building, Mr President, but I have the impression that, whenever you arrive at the Schuman roundabout, you are no longer sure which exit to take. For this reason, let me suggest that you follow our Socialist proposals, because the problem with the European Union is this: if we do not make it clear to the public that this Union of ours offers them social security, and allow them to carrying on thinking that Brussels is out to destroy their social security, the risks we incur will outweigh the opportunities we create. Until we stop conveying that impression, citizens will continue to turn their backs on Europe.

This has to do with the fact that the neo-liberal approach is presented – perhaps not by you, Mr Barroso, but by many of your Commissioners and, what is far worse, by a great many of your officials within the Commission as a fact of everyday life; all will be well with Europe, so the theory goes, when it is deregulated, made more flexible, and locked into a downward social spiral. As long as this is the main thrust of your Commission’s policies, the climate will never change in favour of the EU. We Socialists have not been elected to support the sort of neo-liberal policies that are enshrined in the Bolkestein directive, but to guarantee both sides of the coin on which our discussions have long been focused. On the one hand, we need competition and flexibility, but this increase in competition and flexibility must serve to promote the achievement of the other goal, namely social stability.

For this reason, I ask you to stand by what you said in your strategic guidelines and what you presented to us, together with Mrs Wallström and Mr Verheugen, in the Lisbon strategy, which formulates these very principles: greater flexibility and more competition, certainly, but also an enduring commitment to the social structures that are Europe’s greatest achievement. If you read our resolution, you will see that we are willing to engage in constructive cooperation with you, but only if you, along with your Commission, are willing to build a social Europe. Then we shall gladly give you our backing.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Duff (ALDE), on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, it is bizarre that socialists believe that there can be social progress without economic growth and structural reform. It is also incredibly naive of Martin Schulz to criticise the President of the Commission for playing a part in domestic politics: we are not served by the apatrides – political people divorced from their political roots. My only criticism of the article that I saw in the Financial Times was President Barroso's swipe at 'naive federalists'. I have no idea what he had in mind there.

My group welcomes the sharper focus of the work programme and its grounding within a clear political strategy. However, I am also struck by the great size of the programme. Clearly, a greater sense of priorities will be required. For my own group, our priority is to complete the single market, especially in the area of financial services.

This will require a review and, perhaps, stronger scrutiny of the legacy of the Prodi Commission than the programme has presently enjoyed, certainly with respect to software patenting, but also access to port services. We place great emphasis not only upon the improvement of the quality of drafting, but also upon reducing somewhat the quantity.

I finish with a plea for a focus upon a programme that has begun but is far from finished, especially as regards the financial and trade regulations concerning Northern Cyprus. We have to bring the Turkish Cypriots in from the cold.

 
  
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  Beer (Verts/ALE), on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Madam President, President Barroso has just proposed complicity in a good cause between the Commission and Parliament. On behalf of my group, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, I should like to refer to two possible areas of complicity in the light of current events. You mentioned the most relevant event yourself, Mr Barroso, namely the forthcoming talks in Brussels with the President of the United States.

I believe that, following Condoleezza Rice’s charm offensive in Europe, it must and it will emerge in the coming days and weeks – and the Iran issue will be the acid test – whether we have only one common goal and continue to go our own separate ways, or whether we manage to develop multilateral measures and avert the danger of unilateralism, which we saw during the preventive war against Iraq.

On behalf of my group, may I warmly encourage you and strongly urge the Commission to make every effort in the forthcoming talks to persuade the US Administration to lend its active support to the negotiating strategy of the three EU representatives.

Let me reiterate the common aims of both the American and the European negotiators and the EU Member States. Our aim is complete consensus. We must prevent the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the wider Middle East. We must press on with the development of a political strategy for the wider Middle East on the basis of the European security strategy. We must succeed in enshrining a binding commitment by Iran to refrain from military use of the potential created by its nuclear programme, and we need unlimited access for the International Atomic Energy Agency to enable it to inspect all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. These are the prerequisites for the creation of a ring of security around every country in the region, including Israel.

I am convinced that the European negotiations are the right way forward and are far more likely to succeed if we can persuade President Bush not merely to wait in the wings, not to engage in verbal sabre-rattling and not to keep open the option of a preventive attack, but to put on the agenda an active review of the current economic sanctions against Iran, as well as discussing security guarantees for Iran.

I believe we shall advance in this area if we also remain true to our principle of safeguarding human rights. I appeal specifically to the Commission not to shelve the dialogue on human rights for the duration of the negotiations, but to intensify it. I very much regret having to say this, but I have learned that the German Government, the selfsame Government which is actively supporting our negotiations on the EU side, has instituted deportation proceedings against a 26-year-old woman who obtained a divorce from her Iranian husband and converted to Christianity. Deportation to Iran in these circumstances – and we have opposed it in two previous resolutions – exposes a woman to the danger of stoning, persecution or even death.

I believe that such a bipolar policy makes it difficult, but we must manage to rally a majority in Europe behind a coherent human rights policy. That will establish our credibility on the Iran issue. I have no wish to see Iran succeed in playing off the Europeans against the Americans, because we both have the same objectives. I must re-emphasise that point.

Let me also refer at this juncture to another issue where my group is in agreement with the President of the United States, namely the continuation of the embargo against China. If we say that the criterion of respect for human rights is fundamental to our European foreign policy, we must acknowledge that the human rights situation in China remains appalling, and it was for this reason that the House adopted a resolution only a few weeks ago in which it rejected the initiative launched by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder. We expect this embargo to be maintained and reaffirm that economic interests must not take precedence over human rights.

 
  
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  Markov (GUE/NGL), on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (DE) Madam President, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, even though the subject of this debate is the Commission’s legislative and work programme for 2005, it must, of course, be seen in the wider strategic framework, which is strongly influenced by the Lisbon strategy and, regrettably, is designed primarily to intensify competition. To make matters worse, I believe it is also using the wrong means to pursue that goal.

The operating profits of the large conglomerates in the European Union increased by 78% in 2004. The ratio of profits to GDP is at what is nearly its highest level in the last 25 years. Over the past 12 months, another substantial surplus has been registered in the balance of trade and the balance of payments.

Even in the Federal Republic of Germany, where the large companies are constantly bleating about being shackled by an uncompetitive location, 46 of the 50 companies listed in the Dax index clocked up staggering increases in their profits over the first three quarters.

At the same time, unemployment is rising. There are more and more debates on the introduction of longer working hours in various different forms. Employees are expected to practise wage restraint, which effectively amounts to a drop in real incomes. Welfare benefits are being cut or recipients’ contributions drastically increased, and schemes based on solidarity are increasingly being shunted towards dependence on private funding.

These actions are weakening demand instead of strengthening it. We regard this as a pernicious trend. Of course we need competition, but it must be compatible with the Gothenburg criteria, so as to minimise unemployment, maximise consumer protection and guarantee social security within a healthy environment, and so as to achieve social cohesion through solidarity and sustainable development.

Accordingly, we must make the following pleas to the Commission: abandon your neo-liberal economic policies and scrap your directives on service provision in the single market as well as the Working Time Directive and present replacements in the form of directives on improved health and safety at work or on the harmonisation of welfare standards. Protect small and medium-sized enterprises by using the directives adopted by the last Parliament, such as the directive on software patents, as the basis for a new proposal. Together with the Council, amend the Stability Pact to make expenditure on education and training count as investment, thereby eliminating it from the calculation of the debt ratio. Strive for democratic and socially just world trade by trying to reform the WTO, and do not go to Hong Kong with the same ideas that the old Commission took to Cancún.

Do not argue for more effective military options, but only for peaceful solutions. Campaign for better protection of the environment, and remember that there is certainly still work to be done here in the European Union in fields such as biodiversity, the avoidance and recycling of waste and the sustainable use of resources. Exert more influence in the struggle to protect the global climate, because not only the United States but also China, India and Brazil must be motivated to commit themselves more firmly to this effort.

This would be the right course for the European Union; it would promote sustainable development and create jobs. It is wrong to perpetuate and even intensify the pursuit of the old roads to nowhere that have long been discredited.

 
  
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  Batten (IND/DEM), on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. Madam President, I should like to bid Mr Barroso good evening, but oh dear, oh dear! Here we go again! This legislative programme has been shaped largely by the annual policy strategy, which was published by the last Commission in February 2004. The European Commission is the unelected government of the EU, but what other government anywhere in the world would have its legislative programme set out by its predecessor? The UK Independence Party has complained before that the Commission is unaccountable, but this demonstrates just how undemocratic things are. We will be lumbered with policies framed by people who are not even in office any more!

On 26 January Mr Barroso spoke to Parliament in Brussels about this programme, but Mr Prodi and his team put it together. The new Commission's central policy objective is economic growth. This was also the central objective of the old Commission's document, drawn up last February. Indeed, Mr Prodi made it one of his key objectives when he first came to office in 1999. A fat lot of good it did, as EU growth is lower now than it was then. Fortunately for Mr Prodi, he is safely back in Rome and is no longer answerable for his failures.

The document states that, due to the institutional changeover in 2004, a lighter procedure than usual was adopted for the European Parliament to consider the policy strategy. That procedure was concluded last April – in other words, even before the election of the present European Parliament. We all know this is a phoney parliament, but this demonstrates just how pointless it is.

Europhiles have been complaining that the British people will not be properly informed about the EU Constitution. The Spaniards have just voted on the Constitution, but the fact is that 90% of Spaniards – whom the Europhiles think were well informed about the Constitution – told Spain's state polling organisation that they had little or no knowledge of it, and less than half of them bothered to vote.

What the citizens of Europe should be informed about is not the impenetrable Constitution, but the mountain of EU legislation which will pass through the EU's institutions this year – legislation dreamt up by a defunct Commission and approved by an expired Parliament, both of whom are no longer accountable to the people this programme will affect. However, the citizens of Europe – especially those in Britain – are waking up to what is going on. Soon, not only will the last Commission and the last Parliament be defunct and expired, but so will the whole EU project – and the sooner the better!

 
  
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  Ryan (UEN), on behalf of the UEN Group. Madam President, the key challenge facing the European Union at this time is an economic one. The European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU governments are going to have to work together closely if the objectives of the Lisbon strategy are to be met. This will not be an easy task – we must not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead of us.

One of the issues that must be looked at most carefully relates to the regulatory framework in Europe – we need less regulation in Europe, not more. This was outlined very clearly in a report in today's Financial Times on a study by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, which stated clearly that most people involved in banking and financial services believe that we have far too much regulation and that we need to tackle it so that business can become more competitive.

The key priorities for the European Union at this time include: the completion of the Financial Services Action Plan so as to guarantee a greater level of competition amongst the financial institutions operating within the 25 Member States of the EU, which includes ensuring that retail banking services are available to all EU citizens in the 25 Member States; facilitating the merging of European banks and the updating of asset management legislation so as to guarantee that fund managers can operate asset funds on a cross-border basis; the introduction of new legislation to reduce the costs of clearing and settling trading security transactions; and the introduction of greater competition in the insurance sector.

The European Union must promote a greater level of dialogue with America to streamline the rules governing the operating of the accountancy industry. The European Union operates under a system known as IAS, which is the International Accountancy Standards system. Meanwhile, the American business community operates under the GAAP accountancy structure. This year, 8 000 companies will be listed on European stock exchanges, operating under the IAS system. It is simply wrong that America and Europe operate under two different accountancy models. A greater level of dialogue will have to take place to hammer out these issues.

The European Union must implement the new Services Directive. It must guarantee that the benefits of all technologies are available to communities in Europe, both urban and rural.

Mr Barroso, your recent statements on the Lisbon strategy and the economic way forward for Europe have been very positive, and I wish you well. I hope that you are successful – Europe needs you to be successful.

 
  
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  Kirkhope (PPE-DE). Mr President, this programme offers real hope for the revitalisation and refocusing of the Lisbon Agenda. However, as we approach the Spring Council next month, it is vital that national governments get a grip and push ahead with the economic reforms that are vital to the future prosperity envisaged in the programme.

In recent weeks, I have been impressed by the statements by the President of the Commission and his clear aim of putting growth and prosperity at the heart of his strategy for the period ahead. Similarly, I am unimpressed by the rantings of Socialists, like Mr Schulz, on refocusing priorities within the Lisbon process. The left in Europe remain wedded to the old ways of inflexible labour markets, high non-wage labour costs and other barriers to growth.

Can they not see that it is precisely because of the old social model that Europe is today in relative economic decline? Can they not understand that the high unemployment in so many parts of Europe is caused by the very outmoded proposals that they cling on to in economic terms? Nothing Mr Schulz has just said would help any of the five million presently unemployed in his country. Therefore we continue to urge the Commission President to keep up the pace on reform, and we urge the governments to take heed of the reasons for the failure of the Lisbon Agenda in the first five years.

We want to see a renewed commitment to the completion of the single market. Mr Barroso sensibly understands that many remedies for the lack of economic dynamism lie in the hands of Member States themselves. However, in addition to the lead he has taken, I would encourage him to put real effort into reducing the legislative output from the Commission itself.

The Commission must be as efficient as it is requiring our businesses and citizens to be. He rightly talks about better regulation, but the priority must be less regulation and, crucially, that legislation must be subject to full impact assessment. British Conservative MEPs have been at the forefront of campaigning for less regulation and enforcing such impact assessments. I look forward to, and am confident that I will see, some progress soon on all these issues in relation to the Services Directive, which I am so pleased he supports.

 
  
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  Swoboda (PSE). (DE) Madam President, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that you in the Commission and we in Parliament – or at least the vast majority of Members of this House – want to win hearts and minds for the project of European integration. If that is what we want, we must offer citizens real substance, and explain the importance of that substance.

In our view, a social Europe should be the priority. In order to achieve a social Europe, however, we need jobs. For jobs we need growth, and for growth we need both investment and, first and foremost, education, training and lifelong learning, and – yes, Mr Kirkhope – we need greater flexibility too. Anyone calling for flexibility, however, must know that flexibility and social security are not mutually exclusive; as the Nordic model has shown, the public is in fact willing to accept a greater degree of flexibility if a social safety net is in place and if there are also, for example, extensive opportunities for further training to enable people to cope with the implications of this flexibility, including its social implications.

We also need effective public services. Your statement, Mr President, did not entirely satisfy me, because the question of services cannot be reduced to market economics. Our public services are part of our own identity; whether they be postal services or local transport, they are part of the European identity, which the people of Europe rightly want to see defended. This is therefore not a purely economic matter, but a profoundly emotive issue too.

One final point: what Vice-President Wallström did very recently with regard to the rights of air passengers was a very positive step, in my opinion. The fact is that we must go public and tell people what we have achieved in this Parliament, including our responses to proposals from the Commission. We must tell them that we are here for them, which is why I ask you not to approach legislative measures from an exclusively technical perspective as a means of creating better regulations, but always to think of the people for whom we make these laws and to whom we wish to communicate them. If the Commission and the European Parliament can pursue this approach together in future, we shall win many, many hearts and minds for this European Union of ours.

 
  
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  Brok (PPE-DE). (DE) Madam President, I believe the President-in-Office of the Council has already made the point that this is a good day. We have now seen the results from Spain, which put us all in a better position, not only as regards the referendum campaign but also by making it clear that a great nation has decided by a large majority in favour of this political project. We also have something to show tomorrow, when you see President Bush. It has become clear to all of us – and this must be reflected in our policies – that only joint action makes us a significant factor, and this action pays off, because I can find no other explanation for Condoleezza Rice’s comment that the European Constitution should be adopted. US policy, indeed, is sounding an entirely new note here. Allow me also to express my thanks to you, President Barroso, for your own particular role in enabling the President of this House to take part in tomorrow’s meeting.

I should like to refer to another related point, namely our neighbourhood policy. I do not believe we have made enough progress in this direction, and President Yushchenko will be here in Parliament on Wednesday so that we can seek a new way to address the formidable challenge of cementing democracy in Eastern Europe, so that closer links can be forged between Eastern Europe and the European Union. This implies an urgent need for something more than the neighbourhood policy, because the alternative is increased pressure to narrow the focus of discussions prematurely onto full membership, which we could not deliver immediately, because it would overstretch the integrative capacity of the European Union.

We must offer a vision to the people of these countries, and so it is certainly worth considering whether there should perhaps be another option besides full membership, an option that does not close the door on full membership but holds out that prospect as a long-term goal. At the same time, such an option can bring immediate gains, as happened in the past with the European Economic Area, from which Austria, Finland and Sweden entered the European Union.

I ask the Commission to give this serious thought, because I fear that we shall otherwise become embroiled very soon in a difficult situation. It has been made very clear this afternoon that we are providing these countries, which were victims not only of the Second World War but also of the dictatorship that followed it, with a prospect that enables them to build democracy while strengthening this European Union of ours without impairing its ability to act.

 
  
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  Goebbels (PSE). (FR) Mr President, President Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to make a few personal observations on the Commission’s Work Programme. This is a splendid inventory of the kind once drawn up by the poet Jacques Prévert, but it reminds one of what Wim Kok used to say about the Lisbon Process, ‘Lisbon is about everything and thus about nothing’. The Commission’s Work Programme is a rather similar case, where one cannot see the wood for the trees. Each Commissioner has done his or her best to decorate their own Christmas tree by hanging a few bits of tinsel of their own upon it.

I am not criticising you, Mr President. If you had confined yourself to what was essential, the Members of this House would have been the first to say that you had forgotten this or that issue they considered more important. Nonetheless, I would ask you to devote your energies to what is essential. Europe must defend its social and environmental models. We all agree that Europe must carry out reforms and be more flexible in certain areas. You will not, however, win the support of Europeans by voting in favour of what the right is preparing to vote in favour of tomorrow when I present my report, that is to say less tax for the rich and more labour for the workers. That will not work.

In its 2005 annual report, the Economic Policy Committee said that Europe needs a macroeconomic framework supportive of stability and growth and that such a framework is indispensable, but that governments will reap the full benefits of structural reforms in terms of growth and employment only in an appropriate macroeconomic environment. We have stability, Mr Barroso; what we now need is growth.

 
  
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  Roure (PSE). (FR) Mr President, Mr President of the Commission, as we know, it is the Commission’s legislative programme that enables us to translate the Council’s political priorities into practical actions. We are therefore pleased to note that priority has been given to the implementation of European legislation, but we want firm commitments for future years.

The strengthening of security in Europe does indeed remain a priority, yet it must not on any account be strengthened at the expense of civil liberties. The proposals that have been put forward on improving the exchange of information and strengthening operational cooperation are a step forward in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, but Europeans’ feelings of insecurity, which we acknowledge, must above all be combated through an active policy of protecting and promoting fundamental rights. That is how our democracies must defend themselves, and that is how they will win the day.

We want initiatives to be taken with a view to combating racism, xenophobia and forms of discrimination. The strengthening of judicial cooperation remains one of the priority measures to be taken in order to ensure that Europeans have the same rights and the same access to justice everywhere in Europe. We therefore welcome plans to extend judicial cooperation to include certain aspects of family law. We call upon the Commission to maintain this commitment and to present proposals based on the principle of mutual recognition in the areas of the evaluation and use of evidence and procedural guarantees. We wish to see a fairer approach adopted to asylum and immigration issues, namely one that will above all enable rights to be respected and burdens and responsibilities to be shared. We want to see legal immigration channels opened whereby migrants’ basic needs and rights are respected. Finally, we ask that significant progress be made on the matter of defining minimum standards for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

 
  
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  Lehne (PPE-DE). (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to begin with a brief comment on the political content of the speeches we have heard today, particularly that by Mr Schulz.

I believe – and our current debate on the Lisbon strategy bears this out – that the Lisbon strategy has several pillars. There is absolutely no doubt that all the pillars are, in principle, equally important components of the strategy. On the other hand, it is a truism that proper social and environmental policies cannot be pursued without a functioning economy. The economy is, as it were, the key to the realisation of all our other good political intentions. Priorities must therefore be set accordingly, although the pillar structure must not be forgotten. I should perhaps mention in passing that there is no better social policy than the creation of jobs. That may be another truism, but it still needs to be said.

Another gentle reminder might be in order, because the President of the Commission is constantly being taken to task over this matter. Both of the competent Vice-Presidents of the European Commission – the one who signed the paper in Lisbon and the one who signed the programme we are discussing today – are Socialists. It is perhaps appropriate to reiterate that in passing. This should mean that the dossier is in the best hands within the Commission, and I fail to see the point of forever dredging up this discussion on alleged differences that do not even exist.

I also have a particular appeal to make in this matter, which is that the Commission must attach high priority in the framework of this legislative programme, as in other areas, to the implementation of its interinstitutional agreement with the Council and Parliament. This is vitally important. Among the reasons why things have not worked as well as they should in the past have been the lack of impact assessments of legislative proposals and the inadequate way in which the consultation of stakeholders has been conducted.

I urge the President and Vice-President of the Commission, particularly in the course of their work over the coming months, to ensure that the interinstitutional agreement is consistently implemented in this context. In many areas, this will be the key to the success to which they and all of us aspire.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Gebhardt (PSE). (DE) Madam President, may I say to Mr Barroso that he devoted his speech today to three splendid aims: prosperity, solidarity and security. That naturally arouses great expectations among us Members, and I have to say, Mr Barroso, that my reaction was similar to that of Mr Swoboda, for what you went on to say about the directive on services under these headings actually turned out to be rather insubstantial. If you really want us to achieve prosperity, solidarity and security for our citizens, you will have to deal a great deal more thoroughly with this directive on services than you seemed to indicate today.

If you are serious about your partnership with us, and indeed with all the institutions, you will have to go much further yet. Moreover, we must not forget something that is even more important, Mr Barroso, and that is our partnership with the people of the European Union, with all of its 450 million inhabitants. It is for them, and for no one else, that we make our policies.

 
  
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  Silva Peneda (PPE-DE).(PT) In recent weeks, the Commission has taken decisions on two key themes: the strategic guidelines for its mandate and the reform of the Lisbon Strategy. Both decisions emphasise the fact that the highest priorities for the EU, in the current circumstances, are reinvigorating economic growth and creating jobs.

Frankly, I do not understand the argument over which comes first, economic growth or jobs. For me it is simple. Jobs are created in companies. Well, companies only grow and develop when there is a climate of confidence and a widespread desire to create an investment-friendly atmosphere.

This approach to life, this culture, will become a reality if the capacity is there to carry out the right economic policies. The greater the commitment among the Member States to implement the necessary reforms, the more quickly such a culture can be introduced. That is the only way in which we can maintain, and indeed develop, the European social model. Economic dynamism must not be seen as the enemy of social protection; it is, in fact, its staunchest ally.

I have a different concern, however, which relates to the definition of priorities and the clear allocation of responsibilities. It was precisely because of the absence of these elements that reform of the Lisbon Strategy was needed. It is now the duty of the Member States to display the reforming spirit proposed by the Commission through practical political action.

There is a pressing need to carry out reforms, which, for the most part, are not popular with the public, but which Europe needs. These reforms will only succeed if they are explained, exhaustively if necessary. That is the only way in which they will be understood and accepted.

I shall finish by saying that, to my mind, it is worthwhile looking into the benefits of escaping from the office environment and going out onto the street, and, as Members of the European Parliament, we should be the first to do this.

 
  
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  Grabowska, Genowefa (PSE). (PL) Madam President, Mr President of the Commission, we should welcome the fact that the European Commission intends to focus its efforts on three issues, namely economic growth, social welfare and environmental protection. Only time will tell, however, whether and how these laudable plans will actually be put into practice. Any kind of imbalance, in particular one favouring economic growth at the expense of social welfare and environmental protection, would pose a threat to Europe and its citizens, and in particular to the citizens of the new Member States.

Yet the European Commission is also the guardian of the Treaties, and as such it monitors the Member States’ application of legislation. I would therefore call on the Commission to monitor such application on a regular basis, in particular with regard to compliance with the principle of non-discrimination. This principle, the implementation of which is mandatory, has already given rise to concerns relating to the provisions of the REACH Regulation and the services directive. Is the European Commission not worried that attempts to exclude building services from this directive will be viewed as discriminatory by the new Member States? There are other examples of such practices, and I would therefore call on Mr Barroso to ensure that the Commission monitors the application of legislation very closely as far as the principle of non-discrimination is concerned.

 
  
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  Karas (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, having listened to this debate, I cannot but repeat that we need to think more like Europeans and stop engaging in national and party politics. We need more optimism and confidence, more serious intent, more clarity and scrutiny and the political will to honour the pledges we make from our soap boxes. We need more leadership – more leadership from political circles, more leadership from those in government and more leadership from the Commission.

I should also like to appeal to everyone here to reflect a little. All of us are here to make the four freedoms a reality in law and in fact, and everything that serves this purpose is good politics. We must reflect on what we have enshrined in the Constitution. I really do not understand why we are arguing about these things today. In the Constitution, we proclaim the principle of a social market economy. In so doing, we are clearly stating that the market is not an end in itself but a means to an end, that we need an efficient market which fulfils its social and environmental responsibilities. We have set ourselves the aim of full employment, and we have set ourselves the aim of sustainability. Why do we keep conveying the impression to the general public that we are playing off these aims against each other?

We do not need any more short-sighted populism; what we want is greater responsibility for the future. May I therefore make this request to the President of the Commission: apply a subsidiarity test before the presentation of proposals. Explain to the public what there is to be gained by legislating at EU level. Define the benefits in terms of growth, competition and employment. Define the target group. Define clearly the motives, aims and effects and say who has to do what by when, so that we can exercise our parliamentary right of scrutiny.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR OUZKÝ
Vice-President

 
  
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  Brejc, Mihael (PPE-DE). (SL) Thank you, Mr President. The Commission has drawn up an extensive and ambitious programme. It has drawn up priority tasks which I agree with and support. I am also pleased by the ambition, energy and of course the enthusiasm of the Commission President. Yet if we want Europe to be effective, if we want Europe to be closer to its citizens and if we wish to achieve the objectives, then we must act much more effectively than hitherto ourselves. An important part of the European Union’s effectiveness is its administrative systems, its public administration. You mention them in the strategic objectives on page four, Mr President. This is very pleasing. Yet at the same time I recall that the Prodi Commission began the reform of public administration in the European Union. Former Commissioner Kinnock was responsible for this. While I am unaware of how the whole thing ended, if indeed it was ever started, the fact remains that the citizens of the European Union see this as a great bureaucratic apparatus, removed from the people, an apparatus which costs a great deal and which requires an extremely large amount of administration for every trifling thing, not to mention major projects. So all of us together, not just those of us here in the European Parliament, but also our electorates, justifiably expect the new Commission to find, within the framework of the priority tasks you have set out, the energy, time and will to deal with its own administrative system, with its own bureaucracy. In this regard I anticipate very clear answers. And one more thing! Good legislation is fine, but what is more important is that we actually put good legislation into practice. Thank you very much!

 
  
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  Zaleski (PPE-DE). (PL) Mr President, Mr President of the Commission, Mr Vice-President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, my comments will be addressed primarily to Mr Schulz.

(DE) Mr Schulz, following our conversation about the resolution on Auschwitz, you have completely altered your views and have thereby won my utmost respect. Thank you. Now, however, I should like to respond to your critical comments regarding the Pope.

(PL) Ladies and gentlemen, with regard to the matter of the budget and the funding earmarked for the meeting of young people with the Pope in Cologne, I should like to make it clear that if anyone else managed to bring together so many young people for a good cause, I would certainly vote in favour of providing funding for the meeting. I would do so whether the person in question was Mr Schulz or the chairman of any group or party, and I would do so regardless of whether that person was a Socialist, a Green, a Catholic or an adherent of any other political movement or religion. If the event concerned promoted social and psychological unity and the creation of a common Europe, then it would deserve genuine respect. I believe that Mr Schulz will acknowledge that this is the case, and indeed I can see him nodding in agreement. I should like to thank him for that.

I should also like to remind Members from the ten new Member States, and not only those from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, but also those who are Socialists, Greens, Communists or non-attached Members, that it is thanks to the Pope and his actions that we are able to discuss a common Europe together today. If it were not for him, we would still be unable to hold such a meeting, and I should like to remind Mr Schulz that this was mainly the Pope’s doing, and that Mr Kovács only played a small part at most. If Members are not aware of this fact, or have forgotten it, I should like to remind them most strongly of it, and encourage them to vote in favour of this grant, which will allow the meeting to be held in an appropriate fashion and ensure it will be a great success. I thank you.

 
  
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  Casa (PPE-DE) . (MT) Mr President, allow me to congratulate Mr Barroso, the President of the Commission, on the legislative programme of the Commission and on the programme he has presented. Europe today has grown to consist of 25 Member States, and I am one of those Members who come from one of the countries most recently added to it by enlargement. Europe is what it rightly should be; a Europe with a significant voice in global decision-making processes, and we must maintain this role by continuing to reinforce the foundations once laid by Schuman, De Gasperi and Monnet, based on principles that have enabled the European Union to come as far as it has today. The work that the European Union performs must constantly reflect the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity.

It is vitally important that economic growth be equally spread around all European regions. Europe is obliged to help those who for some reason have lagged behind to catch up and expand their economies. A strong economy can be created by closer cooperation between the Member States, and this is where I would like to congratulate the Commission on the implementation of a new economic strategy that aims to create over six million jobs. The Lisbon Strategy must be an absolute priority for all of us who work in the European institutions.

We must be able to translate this strategy into work and prosperity, a goal that can be achieved only if we manage to eliminate excess bureaucracy and create a strong business environment. We in this House must encourage initiatives that will create work across our continent. Europe’s citizens expect us to improve Europe’s standard of living, and so we must do our best. The legislative and work programme that was presented gives a clear indication of the Commission’s vision for the coming years and, if it cooperates closely with Parliament, I think we can translate this new programme into benefits for all European citizens.

 
  
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  Barroso, President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I will try to reply to some specific questions and then I would like to deal with a more general issue of policy, which I believe to be important in terms of our future work.

With regard to the specific issues, first of all, Mr Duff, you told me that you had not properly understood, or not appreciated, a comment apparently attributed to me concerning naïve federalism. I would very much like to clarify what I said, because it may not have been clear in the context. When I criticise naïve federalism, it is not in fact federalism itself that I am criticising; quite the opposite. I have great respect for all the federalists, all the men and women who founded our great European project. I still believe, moreover, that the federal method is essential to this Europe of ours. Furthermore, the community method, or at least the method we generally describe as such, is a kind of federal method. So, in reality, I criticised naïve federalism as contrasted with what I might consider to be a more sophisticated and more intelligent form of federalism, that is to say, an approach that does not seek to build our European Union – an increasingly close union between all Europeans, at the expense of the legitimacy of the democratic states. Our countries are, in fact, democratic states with democratic governments and democratic parliaments. I have had the honour of working in Geneva with a great federalist, Denis de Rougemont, who sometimes blamed the state for all evils, as if the state were not also a democratic institution. I am in favour of an increasingly strong Union, but that strengthening should not jeopardise the legitimacy of the democratic states. I very much wish to offer that clarification because I have heard criticisms of my comment, which gave a distorted view of my thoughts and feelings on the subject of Europe.

The second issue relates to security and justice. We have talked a lot about the economy, but we must not forget that we have a programme – and a very ambitious one at that – in the field of security and justice – a programme that will be implemented by Vice-President Frattini. That, specifically, was the subject of one of the questions raised. Security, justice and the protection of fundamental rights will be one of the Commission's priorities. We need to offer a practical response to people’s demands in terms of security. That is why, in 2005, we are, in particular, going to present Parliament with the action plan aimed at implementing the strategy adopted in The Hague, in the form of proposals concerning the protection of the victims of organised crime, women and children in particular. I would draw your attention to the fact that this is a new dimension to the action described in our programme: placing more emphasis on the protection of children. We believe – and I also very much want to stress this – that this is a field in which it is possible to strengthen action at European level. Proposals can thus be presented with a view to strengthening mutual recognition and trust between the judicial authorities, and a proposal concerning a European strategy in relation to legal immigration and to the fight against people traffickers can be drawn up. Security, justice and the protection of human rights are a genuine priority, and I would like you to know that the Commission is going to do everything possible to respond to those demands.

Certain Members, including Mr Karas, Mr Kirkhope, and Mr Lehne, and also Mr Goebbels to a certain degree, have raised the issue of how to focus legislation and of whether it should be strengthened or restricted. I am delighted, moreover, that the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council are fully aware of this concern. When I talk about ‘better legislation’, I do not always mean that we need less legislation. In certain cases, precisely because we are a Union, we need a degree of harmonisation or more legislation, sometimes in order to harmonise or simplify the existing legislation. I would, however, like to stress that we do share this concern about the quality of legislation, and we have introduced it into our programme. Throughout all of the action we take, we shall, therefore, be weighing up the factors of cost, proportionality and subsidiarity that we shall be using for the purposes of impact assessment.

This is why – and I say this partly in response to Mr Goebbels – we have of course had to draw up a list of our main objectives. This is an implementation programme for this year. You would no doubt criticise us if I only presented four or five priorities. The political line is one dimension and, in this regard, we are talking about very clear and well-focussed priorities, defined when we presented the strategic objectives. The specific, legislative and implementation programme is another dimension, and one of which you should be aware so that you can monitor our activities, the Commission being answerable to this Parliament.

With regard to another specific question, namely climate change, I would like very much to say to Mrs Beer, who I am sure will put this question to President Bush tomorrow, that one of the subjects on our agenda is the possibility of cooperation with the Americans, partly in a post-Kyoto spirit. That is a sensitive subject. We are aware of the positions taken by the American administration to date, but I believe we should embark upon a dialogue on this issue with the United States of America. I shall probably have the opportunity to raise this issue with the President of the United States.

With regard, now, to the issue of the Directive on Services, I would very much like to say, in response specifically to Mr Swoboda, that I agree with your concerns about services of general interest. I have already said this on many occasions: services of general interest, or certain public services, are part of what might be called the tradition, or organisational culture, of certain states. We are therefore seeking specifically to ensure that these concerns are taken into account, since we believe them to be legitimate.

That is why my Commission has taken the initiative to review certain aspects of the Directive on Services, and I was expecting a word of congratulation from yourselves. It is exactly the opposite that I hear from you when you describe this Commission as neoliberal even though it was not this Commission that presented the directive in question. In fact, we are seeking a balance while maintaining the objective, which is to create a genuine internal market in services, since that is essential to the creation of jobs in Europe. This is an objective we cannot abandon and on which, furthermore, there is consensus until 2010, but it must be pursued in a balanced manner. That is the fundamental political question I would like to put to our friends in the Socialist Party in the European Parliament, and in particular to Mr Schultz, who raised this question.

You must choose: either you want to oppose the Commission or you want to work with it. I have already said that the Commission wants to work in a spirit of cooperation and constructive rapport with Parliament and, in particular, with all those Members who truly want to move Europe forward. This is no neoliberal proposal on our part.

The proposals I have put forward in this House are the result of a consensus. The Commission includes Christian Democrats, Socialists and Liberals. The Lisbon Agenda was presented to the Commission by myself and Vice-President Verheugen, who is a member of your political grouping. The programme I have just presented today has been presented by myself and Vice-President Wallström, who is also a member of your political grouping.

We do not want to engage in dogmatism; we want to unite those Europeans who want reforms for Europe, but we do not want to abandon the reforms. If it has been possible for the Commission to take all these decisions unanimously, although there may have been expressed differences; if Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals and Independents have reached a consensus, why might we not also achieve that here in the European Parliament and unite around an ambitious programme of reform for this Europe of ours, which takes account of social and environmental concerns? Do not present a caricature of our Commission. That is not fair.

(Applause)

If you look at the list of our objectives, you will find that it contains a series of specific proposals in the social and environmental fields. We are well aware that, today, it is impossible to create growth without an environmental dimension. On the contrary, we believe that the environment contributes to growth and increased competitiveness in Europe. We agree on this point, so please do not see obstacles where there are, in fact, none. What we want is to make it clear that the status quo is no longer an option today, that Europe has serious competitiveness problems when compared to other regions of the world and that we intend to put this right by adapting and renewing our social model. That is why the Commission has a President who wants reform, but also Socialist, Liberal, Christian Democrat and Independent members who all also want this reform to be carried out in a spirit of balance and proportion.

I would therefore like to ask the PSE Group not to set itself up in opposition to the Commission: on the contrary, I would ask it to cooperate, though not in an uncritical way, with us, just as all the other groups do. Mrs Grossetête, who is a member of the largest political grouping in the European Parliament, has also expressed to us certain demands and requirements, and I thank her for that.

I would now like to draw your attention, as fellow Europeans, to the fact that this is not just any moment in the history of Europe. Yesterday, we learned the result of the referendum in Spain, and we are delighted about this, but we shall also have a referendum in France. We shall have a referendum in the United Kingdom; I talked about it today with Prime Minister Blair in London. What do you believe Europeans expect now? They want the institutions to work together; they do not have a very good understanding of the fine details of the debate or of the policies of the political groups. They want to know whether the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are working along the same lines and whether or not they are genuinely concerned about their problems.

I believe it would be highly inappropriate, at a time like this when very important referendums are taking place, for people to look at Europe and see, on the one hand, the Commission and, on the other, a number of large groups such as your great European Socialist grouping, and thus to be presented with an image of division. I have already addressed this very sincere appeal to some of you personally and I would like to repeat it. We should not abandon our ideas, of course, since we are all very attached to them, but it is possible to look beyond these ideas and reach a dynamic consensus in favour of the reforms Europe needs. I believe that this is genuinely possible.

(Applause)

The last issue relates to the criticism you expressed, Mr Schultz, of the statement I made about my country. As, moreover, you acknowledged, I did not, where this matter was concerned, fail to honour any obligation, because the Commission's code of conduct clearly allows Commissioners to be active members of political parties and unions. There was therefore no failure to honour obligations. All I did was express my solidarity with the party of which I was President for several years. What would have been a real political event in my country is if I had kept quiet! I would therefore thank you for not putting the question in the form of an attack against me personally for the position I took, because it was perfectly permissible for me to take that position.

You raised the possibility of the code of conduct’s being revised in terms of the interinstitutional agreement. I would very much like to say that I am completely opposed to this idea, since our code of conduct stipulates that the members of the Commission may participate in an election campaign if they request authorisation to do so from the President of the Commission. The question you raised is therefore about what happens in the case of the President of the Commission. I must state that if the President of the Commission has the power to decide whether or not Commissioners can participate, then he also has that power in relation to himself. This is clearly laid down in the Treaty, Article 217 of which states, and I shall read it in English:

The members of the Commission shall carry out duties devolved upon them by the President under his authority.

(FR) The Treaty therefore clearly establishes the principle of the President's political leadership of the College and the principle of the President's authority. So to accept, by means of an interinstitutional agreement, a reduction in the authority of the President would be contrary to the Treaty as it stands, and to weaken the President of the Commission's authority would mean weakening the authority of the Commission itself.

We need a strong Commission. That is why I believe that your proposal is not a good one. I would draw the attention of all the political families to the fact that we, the European Parliament and the Commission, must strengthen each other on a mutual basis. We are the European institutions par excellence. We can do extraordinary things together, and we must therefore enhance each other’s status. Personally, I try to enhance the status of the European Parliament in all my public statements, and not just in my statements. I would expect you to do the same, since we have great challenges to face together, and together we can win the day. However, we cannot do so by reducing the importance of the Commission and by asking the Commissioners to be civil servants. Instead, we must ask them to assume their political responsibilities, to exercise their citizenship and to express their preferences, always while working in a European spirit of course. As a citizen, I have the right to express my point of view about my own country. I have the right, like all European citizens, to vote in accordance with my opinions.

As President of the Commission, I will not discriminate. In fact, at your request, I received the leader of the opposition, who will become the Prime Minister of my country. I received him a few days before the beginning of the election campaign, because, as President of the Commission, I do not use my post to oppose any particular government and I do not distinguish between governments of the left and of the right. In fact, I believe that the Commission should represent the general European interest.

Having said that, the members of the Commission are political men and women. Perhaps some Members of this House do not like that. As citizens, we have rights, however. We have the right to express ourselves, and that is a fundamental right. That is why I do not accept your criticism in this regard. I would like to point out that we all need strong European institutions. This institution – the Commission – must be strong and must work with a strong Parliament, firmly committed to change and reforms and with the sense of balance that is at the heart of our Europe.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. I have received six motions for resolutions to wind up the debate pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday at 12 noon.

 
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