Foreign Affairs
Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Speech by professor Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, at Columbia University on "EU/EP after Lisbon Treaty and the Transatlantic Partnership"

New York -
Friday, April 30, 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 - especially such a distinguished university as Columbia, here in New York City.

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 one reason - not the only reason of course - why I chose the hard sciences and not political science.

Even the Communists had to accept the '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 this afternoon about the political system in the European Union - especially the position of the European Parliament - following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, and what that Treaty means for both Europe and the United States. I would like to suggest ways in which we can deepen our relationship in the 21st century.

However, I will keep my talk fairly short - not a long lecture. After that, I would be delighted to take questions or comments. I would be especially interested to hear your own views on the issues.

=European Parliament=

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

Already in most of the routine areas of law-making, especially economic and social law - like the single market, transport, the environment, employment, development policy and intellectual property - the European Parliament has been co-equal with the Council of Ministers for many years. It has long enjoyed a right of veto over important areas of 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 financial data transfer (SWIFT or TFTP).

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

The European Parliament is much more like the US Congress than any of our national parliaments in Europe. We have our own separation of powers. We do not have to support a government. Our parties are free from the control of a government as to how they vote in the chamber.

And we don't just have two political groups, like in the US Congress. We have seven political groups, drawn from the (more than) 150 national political parties  elected on separate lists throughout all the regions and nations of the Union.

=EU Political System=

In parallel, things have changed on the executive side. The regular meetings of the heads of state and government - the European Council - have been split off to become a separate, formal institution, chaired by a permanent president, Herman van Rompuy. This body gives overall guidance to the Union, setting the big, long-term priorities for the Union - like the 'Europe 2020' economic reform programme or reform of European economic governance. the European Commission remains the administration of the Union, enjoying the special right to propose legislation.

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

In this system, the 27 EU 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 what we call the 'community  method'.

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

With the Lisbon Treaty, 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 now 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 more effective way of dealing with the rest of the world.

Critical to our success is the Transatlantic Partnership. As Vice President Biden put it to me this week in Washington: "It is simple: you need us, and we need you". We need each other more than ever before. Neither is big enough in today's global world to achieve our goals on our own.

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

By the year 2025, OECD countries are expected to 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 the American power.

How are we to respond?

Together, I believe, we need to take the lead in building and shaping a new form of global governance. I have always liked the how my friend Bob Zoellick (of the World Bank) has put it - 'we need to modernise multilaterism'.

The hard truth is that unless the West is united, we will lose the ability to defend ans 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, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. Common action on these fronts is absolutely essential.

And in addressing these issues, we 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 they can be expected 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. It is not only that we share the same values - very many of our interests are the same.

We do have some disagreements on specific areas of legislation and regulation. You all know the cases - Boeing versus Airbus; Chlorinated Chicken; the REACH or chemicals directive, and recently SWIFT.

We can address those in our bilateral structures, like the Transatlantic Economic Council. And we need to strengthen those structures: why not a Transatlantic Environmental Council or a Transatlantic Financial services Council?

In the European Parliament, we are committed to building new structures between ourselves and the US Congress. I have been working on this in Washington earlier this week. We want much stronger committee-to-committee links, backed by video-conferencing, personal dialogue between chairmen and rapporteurs, staff exchange, and joint foreign visits to third countries (like China, India or the Middle-East).

This is very important. But we should think bigger than that. We need to set ourselves a more ambitious transatlantic challenge for the 21st century.

In ten years 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 been developing continuously for over 50 years.

On Wednesday, I addressed the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington 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 creation of 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 was the core of a nation's industry at the time, was an incredibly bold and ambitious project. We forget that now. The six countries that took part changed Europe's face and Europe's future.

So 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.

But in such a world, We are home to the world's most successful democracies.
We represent 60% of the world's GDP. If we have the right policies, the rest will follow.
I believe fundamentally that the EU's unique model of sharing sovereignty - of promoting common solidarity and common responsibility - is working well and can be a model for the rest of the world.