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Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 5 July 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

22. Formal sitting – Italy

  President. Mr Ciampi, ladies and gentlemen, it is our honour and privilege to receive in this House today the President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

We all know and remember him as a brilliant Governor of the Bank of Italy, the Prime Minister who had to face difficult times within the Italian political system, the skilful and tenacious Finance Minister in the Prodi and D'Alema governments and today a President of the Republic much loved by all Italians.

I believe that, at this particularly difficult time for Europe, we should remember that President Ciampi was the minister who made a decisive contribution to Italy’s entry into the euro, and it is good to remember this at a time when some people are beginning to see the euro as an uncomfortable straitjacket rather than an instrument that is fundamental to prosperity and economic stability.

The first time I had the opportunity to meet President Ciampi personally was last October, in Rome, at the signing of the Constitutional Treaty. Your personality, Mr President, and your views on European integration made a profound impression on me on that occasion. I already knew the politician, but in Rome I had the opportunity to get to know the person who has always fought lucidly and passionately in favour of a Europe that is a guarantor of peace, democracy and economic and social development.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a man who has always remembered the state Europe was in at the end of the Second World War and who has witnessed the realisation of the dream of those people who laid the foundations for the Europe we have today: a Europe that, in many people's eyes, above all amongst the younger generations, gives the impression that there is no need to mobilise wills in order to ensure its continued existence and progress. We Members of the European Parliament know that that is not the case, that Europe cannot build itself, that peace is not certain, peace is never certain and, of course, it would not have been ensured without the success of the European project.

The Europe we have is not an accident of history, it has not appeared by chance, nor is it written in the stars, and it requires a great effort to make it a reality. It is necessary, but in order to make it a reality, the efforts of many people, of you, Mr President, and of all of us, is required. It is the result of a slow development during which we have ‘made the path by walking’, which involves commitment, enthusiasm and sometimes disillusionment.

President Ciampi has come to the European Parliament today at a time when we are experiencing a degree of disenchantment. He will help us to understand why, because he is well aware that Europe was a dream based on peace and cooperation. That dream is a reality today and, for that very reason, it no longer inspires dreams, it has lost its capacity to make people dream. We need to find new elements, new ideals shared by everybody, different to those of a few decades ago, in order to ensure that Europe once again inspires enthusiasm, that it makes people dream, that it makes them want to turn the need into a reality. I believe that Mr Ciampi’s presence is extremely appropriate in this debate on the future of Europe and that by being here today, he is symbolising the start of that debate. That is how I believe we should interpret his presence in the European Parliament, because we perhaps need to create a new young Europe amongst all of us, in the style of Giuseppe Mazzini, and this year, the bicentenary of his birth, we should remember his idea that democracy and freedom unite people regardless of where they live.

Mr President, we are convinced that your visit, your example and your words will be of great assistance to us at the difficult crossroads Europe is facing today, so that we can make further progress on the construction of a Europe that is able to guarantee not just peace and cooperation, but also prosperity and security, and that is able to do in the rest of the world what it has done here: create a society based on respect for diversity, on the integration of differences and the construction of a common identity.

Mr Ciampi, it is an honour for the European Parliament to welcome you and I give you the floor.



  Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of the Italian Republic. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your warm welcome and I thank you, in particular, Mr President, for the cordial words with which you chose to present me.

It is a deeply felt honour for me to speak in the most elevated surroundings of European democracy, to make the voice of the Republic of Italy heard in the heart of the constitutional system of the Union. It is with conviction that I use the adjective ‘constitutional’, because such is the legal system that we have been building together for 50 years, treaty after treaty.

The European Union is not, and cannot be, just an economic free trade zone.


It is above all, and has been since its beginnings, a political structure, a land of rights, a constitutional reality that does not contradict our beloved national Constitutions, but connects them and completes them. It is a political structure that does not deny the identity of our nation states, but strengthens them in the face of the large-scale challenges of an increasingly broad horizon. It is a land of rights, to which every other inhabitant of this planet can look with the confidence that here, more than anywhere else, the values of human beings are respected. The ambitious definition given to the Union by the Constitutional Treaty is a legitimate one, that is to say, ‘a special area of human hope’.

From this position we must all go forward together, whether we be the 11 Member States which, like Italy, have already ratified the Constitutional Treaty, the Member States that are still to do so, or the two Member States that have said no. A single institutional framework joins us together irreversibly. It is already strong enough to enable us together to do many things for our citizens, in order to regain the popular consensus on the Treaty that has been lacking in many countries and to strengthen our institutions, which we have inherited from a successful past.

Precisely because we are already a political and constitutional body, we can indeed realistically assess the meaning of the rejection seen in two countries linked from the start to the European project. As little as a few months ago, on the occasion of the formal signing in Rome of the Constitutional Treaty by the 25 governments of the Union, the single project met with widespread consent. Within the space of a few months, the fear spread that the citizens were excluded from crucial decisions regarding their future and concerns heightened over the lack of economic growth. Is it really legitimate, however, to interpret the outcome of the referenda as disaffection with European unity? Is it legitimate to give in to the temptation of completely challenging the very project of the founding fathers?

If we raise our eyes, the Treaty of Rome of October 2004 rather appears to be the scapegoat of widespread unrest that does not so much relate to institutional order as to the government policies of the Union. We even note a paradox. The persistent call for a political revival of the Union, which is more urgent than the also necessary institutional reforms are, bears witness to the awareness of the common destiny on which a Constitution is really based. That is why we now have to think about the Union’s policies for the future, without, however, abandoning the constitutional design outlined by the industrious Convention.

What does the future urgently demand of our Europe? Above all, to borrow from Ortega y Gasset, it demands that the backbone of the Union should consist of measures of political cohesion, physical cohesion and social cohesion.

The fundamental principle of subsidiarity has to be interpreted as a principle of political cohesion, allowing bottom-up participation in Community decision-making, starting from the thousands and thousands of town councils in our Union. The European Union has to exist starting from those levels.

Europe also needs physical cohesion, transport and communication structures, which make Europeans more united while respecting the environment and the countryside.

Lastly, Europe, which invented the welfare state, needs social cohesion. We cannot allow substantial disparities in living standards to persist among countries and consequently among the peoples to whom our international personality offers united representation. Europe consequently calls for the historical objective of convergence and cohesion to be achieved by means of appropriate policies for managing the economy.

I have always believed, first as a banker and then as a politician, that the principle of free trade in the economic culture of the Union means being able to speak to the market in the language of the market, but that it cannot mean indulging all of its whims.


It is the lack of political will from national governments that prevents their budget policies from being effectively coordinated. That makes it difficult for the Union to use a common fund, partly made up of Europe’s borrowing on the international credit market, to finance major infrastructure works of European interest and important common research and innovation initiatives, and to create a legacy of common public assets. The Lisbon Strategy is the first link in a chain that should lead to the European economy being governable. The national governments must send out a precise message, made convincing by the allocation of public resources. The sought-after flexibilities must be utilised by businesses in order to gain in competitiveness and to increase their production base and sales in Europe and worldwide.

Europe has to revive its own commitment to major Community projects. We have been successful on many occasions, including in recent years, for instance in CERN and the European Space Agency, with the ITER and Galileo projects, which have been a decisive step forward in strengthening Europe’s technological capabilities, and with the Erasmus project, which has opened up new European horizons to over a million young people. Airbus too is an example of what we can do together if we only unite.

We can also look with confidence at the resourcefulness of the euro zone, which is now presided over by Jean-Claude Juncker, to whom I send my best wishes, partly on account of our long friendship and collaboration. The euro is the greatest demonstration of the united will of the European people, and a driving force of political integration. It is an encouraging sign of confidence that six of the ten accession countries have already begun to take part in SME 2, thus taking the first important steps towards joining the euro zone. The tangible benefits of taking part in the single currency are there for all to see: protection from imbalances on the exchange market, low interest rates and strengthened competition in those countries of the euro zone that have adopted virtuous policies.


(Mario Borghezio noisily interrupted the speaker and pennants were displayed)


  President. Would the ushers please remove that symbol immediately. Accompany the Member to the door, expel him from the Chamber! Expel him from the Chamber immediately! I said expel him from the Chamber!


Would the ushers please remove any symbol or element that may disrupt order in the Chamber.


Please ensure that no element that may disrupt normal order in the Chamber remains. If there are any, remove them.

(The Members in question were expelled)

I am sorry, Mr President. Please continue.



  Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of the Italian Republic. (IT) We must record both the strengthening of the euro on the international markets and the policy of price stability pursued by the European Central Bank as extraordinary success stories, but we cannot settle for this situation in the long term. The confirmed, legitimate rigour of the Stability Pact does not in itself guarantee growth if inertia persists. It will continue to be difficult to see the positive effects of the euro if there is no coordinated management of either national budgets or the direction taken by the Member States’ economic policies. It is only on these foundations that the Union will be able to entirely achieve its potential, bestowed on it by the single currency, of being a global economic player and of consolidating an economic and monetary bloc capable of promoting the interests of the citizens and the rhythms of its balanced development.

We now also confidently await an agreement on the financial perspectives of the Union. An open and frank political debate on the priorities for the Union’s actions is a positive step, but a Community budget needs to be approved as soon as possible that not only reflects a balance among the various requirements of the Member States, but is also based on consistent, inclusive objectives. I express in this House the earnest hope that the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, President-in-Office of the European Union, succeeds in the work he pledged to carry out before this Parliament.

The vitality of the European model will also depend on the ability to mobilise new forces within our countries. Only by developing a dialogue and constructive coexistence between European citizens and non-European residents, in fact, will we succeed in strengthening the best aspects of our society.

Finally, the future of our Europe calls for policies of security and peace. The international vision of the European Union, based on the primacy of the law, on trust and on the multilateral system, raises expectations and hopes throughout the world. Europe, however, will only be able to influence international balances if it is united. By acting alone, we would be at the mercy of events greater than us, events that threaten peace and European security.

Consistent with that approach, the European Parliament has long raised the issue of the united representation of Europe in the United Nations. The resolution adopted in June, like the previous resolution of January 2004, stipulates that a single seat for the European Union in the UN Security Council is the objective that Europe must set itself.


This clarity of vision is a credit to the European Parliament. The awareness of our common roots and the shared memory of the good and bad times of our history bear witness to a higher European interest harmonising national interests, protecting them from the excesses that plagued our past and promoting them within a common vision of our relations with the world.

Enlarged Europe has now touched the boundaries of its cultural and historical identity. Although geography does not enable Europe’s borders to be identified with certainty, the common area of principles, values and rules conveyed by the European Union is today fully identifiable.

Enlargement of the Union was an historical duty towards peoples who regarded accession to the Union as the guarantee of their regained freedom, the conclusion of nearly half a century’s anticipation. We expect the new Member States, which are entitled to live in a Union that is effective and united in relation to them as well, to provide a constructive and enthusiastic contribution, and we have already seen them do so. The enlarged Union will proceed as one. Precisely because it has become enlarged, however, it will require, more so than in the past, progressive measures indicating the path to follow in order to complete the union of Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is the duty of the European Parliament to reintroduce the European Union as a general feeling among people. It is your responsibility to respond to citizens’ requests for even greater democracy, transparency and governability. Ever since 14 February 1984, when the European Parliament presented Altiero Spinelli’s draft European Constitution, this House has constantly demanded greater involvement in amending the Treaties. Now, the most representative of the European institutions has the historical responsibility not to squander the founding heritage and to ensure that the period of reflection on the Constitution does not fall by the wayside.


The very conclusions of the European Council of 16 and 17 June encourage a debate designed to generate interest and invite the European institutions to contribute to it.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a long time ago now, I had the opportunity, as a university student in Italy and Germany, to witness the extent of the stupidity with which the European Member States, by means of the Second World War, began the slaughter of an entire generation.


For that reason, I look with concern on every slowing down, on every crisis in the European integration process. I hope, however, that you have detected in my words a calm faith in the future. Halfway through the last century, great and wise men built a structure that cannot be destroyed, but, like lighthouse keepers, we have to take care to warn young people about new dangers.

In the not too distant future I will come to the end of my term of office as President of the Italian Republic. Six years ago, after being sworn in, I concluded my address to the Italian Parliament with a declaration saluting and affirming my commitment towards Italy and the European Union, to which I believe I have remained loyal in these recent years brimming with history and changes. It is a commitment that I am pleased to reaffirm before you now. Long live Europe, long live the European Union!



  President. Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say a few words of thanks to Mr Ciampi. I do not want to forget to do so as I have on other occasions as a result of the emotions of the moment. Having listened to you, Mr Ciampi, I believe I can say, on behalf of the great majority of Members of this Parliament, that this institution will remember your words. You have shown that you belong to the young Europe. Yes, the young Europe.


Because, as Picasso said, ‘it takes a long time to become young’. And you have shown that it is possible to become young at a time when youth is precisely what is needed most.

I am sorry about the incident, which in no way represents the majority of this House, quite the contrary, and I pray that the ideas that you have expressed here will help us in the debate we must pursue. You have said it very clearly. Allow me to thank you once again.

Europe is a success story, but it could die from its success. In order to prevent this, we must not allow the most valuable and sensitive elements of our co-existence to become trivialised. We must not allow everyday reality to make us forget the value of what we have achieved. We must not allow something wonderful to be treated as something commonplace.

We therefore thank you once again, Mr Ciampi, for being here with us and we hope that your words will be heard outside this Chamber.





  Bruno Gollnisch (NI). (FR) Madam President, I am basing my point of order on Articles 166, 75 and 83 of the Regulation and on Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union, as Articles 75 and 83 of the Regulation refer us to the wording of the treaties. I shall be very brief.

Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union stipulates that amendments to that treaty will enter into force after ratification by all Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Since Article 48 refers to all Member States, it is clear that the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by two of them – France and the Netherlands – and by many more if the people had been consulted, has reduced the Constitutional Treaty to nothing and, therefore, I am afraid – and with all respect due to President Ciampi as a person and to his office – has done the same for President Ciampi’s speech.

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