Speeches
Internal Policies and EU Institutions

President Buzek on "The New European Parliament: Politics and Power in Today's European Union" at the School of Advanced International Studies - Johns Hopkins University

Washington DC -
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Students,
Dear Professors,
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am delighted to be able to address you today. As a professor myself, I always feel at home when I come to a university. My passion has always been knowledge and passing on knowledge to the next generation, my activity in politics only came later on in life.

I grew up in a system where art was censored, where history was falsified, and where politics had only one colour. This is why I chose the hard sciences and not political science - because even the Communists had to accept that 'one plus one equals two'.

Or at least they accepted that most of the time!


Dear Friends,

I would like to make a few remarks about the political system in the European Union, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, and what that Treaty means for both Europe and the United States.

I will keep my talk fairly short. After that, I would be delighted to take questions or comments. I would be especially interested to hear your own views on these issues.

=European Parliament=

First, let me say a word about the European Parliament, which I now have the honour to chair. The Parliament has been on a rising curve of power over the last quarter century. The Lisbon Treaty takes that power to a new level.

Already in most of the routine areas of law-making - like the single market, transport, the environment, employment, development policy, and intellectual property - the Parliament has been co-equal with the Council of Ministers for many years. It has long enjoyed a right of veto over EU law - first introduced by the Maastricht Treaty 17 years ago.

However, now with the Lisbon Treaty, we move a step further. We are co-equal with the Council in law-making on agriculture and fisheries, international trade policy, and justice and home affairs. Nearly all international agreements, including all trade agreements, now need the Parliament's explicit approval. We have a right of veto. We have already seen the implications of that on final data transfer (SWIFT or TFTP).

In effect, like in the United States, we now have lower and an upper chamber - the European Parliament and the Council - in a single, bicameral legislature.

=EU Political System=

In parallel, things have changed on the executive side. The meetings of heads of state and government - the European Council - have been split off to become a separate, formal institution, chaired by Herman Van Rompuy. This body gives overall guidance to the Union, setting the big, long-term priorities for the Union. The European Commission remains the administration, with the special right to propose legislation.

Simply stated, the Council of Ministers is now the counterpart to the European Parliament, as Europe's legislative and budgetary authority. The Commission and the European Council jointly form the executive.

In this system, the member states still remain very important, but the European level - the supranational level - has been strengthened and the exercise of power is shaped more than ever by the 'Community method'.

Now qualified majority voting, not unanimity, is the norm in the Council of Ministers. Now co-decision between the Council and Parliament is the norm.

The 'intergovernmental method' still has its place, but in a smaller sphere - in decision-making on foreign and security policy, the financial resources of the Union, and some aspects of monetary union.

=Foreign Policy Structures=

We have also put in place new arrangements in the field of foreign policy. We have a new High Representative, also Vice President of the Commission - Baroness Cathy Ashton. She chairs the Foreign Affairs Council and is a member of the European Council: she is thus the only EU person officially in three institutions - the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Council.

The external departments of the Commission and Council will be merged into a new European External Action Service. This will give the EU a more coherent structure for developing and implementing foreign policy - and present a more united face to our partners and allies around the world.

=Transatlantic Perspectives=

Dear Friends,

So we have a new design to the political system of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty should help Europe better coordinate its policies both internally and externally, and to develop a better way of dealing with the rest of the world.

Critical to our success is the Transatlantic Partnership.
We need each other more than ever before. Neither of us is big enough in today's global world is achieve our goals on our own.

In this second decade of the 21st century, the relative power of both Europe and the United States - and the rest of the West - is already decreasing.

By the year 2025, OECD countries are expected produce only 40% of the world's output, compared to well over half at the moment. Asia's share will increase to 38%, practically on a par with that of the OECD.

The rise of China, India and other new players makes this clear to Europe. In the United States, over the last decade, you have discovered the limits of American power.

How are we to respond? Together, I believe, that we need to take the lead in building and shaping a new form of global governance. I have always liked how my friend Bob Zoellick has put it - that we need to 'modernise multilateralism'.

The hard truth is that unless the West is united, we will lose the ability to defend and advance our interests and values. If we are united, we can help define international responses, in the G8 or WTO or elsewhere.

Of course, we will not be able to solve all major international challenges on our own. We will need to cooperate - and should want to cooperate - with a range of new partners around the world. Our interdependence can and should make us stronger.

We need to use the Euro-Atlantic partnership to change the way global governance functions. The United States and Europe should play a key leadership role in defining the principles and structures of this new multipolar and multilateral world.

In such a world, America and Europe should still serve as an axis of global stability and enlightened values. I believe we need to use this partnership to put in place the right policies and the right institutions on a world-wide scale.

We all know the difficult challenges we face today - economic insecurity, energy independence, climate change, migration, money-laundering, piracy, and of course terrorism. Common action on these fronts is essential. And in addressing these issues, we will need to find ways of bringing on board, in different ways, Russia, China, India, Brazil and the other new regional powers.

They have to become stakeholders in the new world order, or disorder - so that they can expect to have a genuine sense of ownership in the way policy is set.

The time to do this is now, whilst Europe and America are still powerful enough to make a difference. If we fail, the 21st century will be a century of insecurity and instability for all of us.


Dear Colleagues,

Our transatlantic relationship is already very strong - we have the biggest trade and investment flows in the world. We share the same values - and very many of our interests are the same.

We do have some issues on specific areas of legislation and regulation. You all know the cases - Boeing vs Airbus; Chlorinated Chicken; the REACH directive and recently SWIFT.

We can address those in the Transatlantic Economic Council, but I think we should think bigger than that. We need to set ourselves a more ambitious challenge for the 21st century.

In ten years time let us implement a genuine transatlantic single market, based on the four freedoms which already exist in Europe - the free movement of goods, services, capital and (yes) people.

I would add a fifth freedom, the free movement of knowledge across the Atlantic.

A transatlantic market could build on one of the European Union's greatest success stories - the single market that we have building continuously for over 50 years.

Yesterday I addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and challenged the business community to put forward their ideas and proposals to achieve such a free market, to look at both sides of the Atlantic as one space of 800 million citizens.

Today I challenge you, the next generation of Americans, to think of a Euro-Atlantic community - a common space where you can live, work and study on either side of this inner sea which is the Atlantic Ocean. That may seem a dream, but our challenge is to change the context and create a new reality.

Next weekend - on 9th May - we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the famous declaration in Paris by Robert Schuman that lead to the European Coal and Steel Community.

Jean Monnet, who wrote that declaration, once said that 'everybody is ambitious. The question is whether he is ambitious to be or ambitious to do'.

The pooling of sovereignty over coal and steel, which at the time was the core of a nation's industry, was an incredibly bold and ambitious project. The six countries that took part changed Europe's face and Europe's future.

Today, let us also be ambitious to do. Let us dream not just of a strong Transatlantic Partnership - let us create a genuine Transatlantic Community.