Speech by Prof. Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament to the Romanian Parliament
Dear Madame Speaker,
Before I make my remarks, I would like to thank you for the warm words of support and solidarity which came from you, and from the Romanian people after the accident which killed President Kaczynski and ninety-five other passengers in April.
Among them there were eighteen Parliamentarians, as well as the Deputy Speakers of both the Upper and Lower Chambers.
Romania and Poland were always allies, friends, and at times even neighbours. Poland will never forget the safe haven you offered to our government in 1939, as well as the offer of military assistance while my country was invaded.
For Romania, and the other countries from our region, entering the EU was as a matter of fact, not the goal in itself; we understand it as the first step. Our duty to our citizens was to continue the reforms we started so that we could use the opportunities which the EU offers to catch up with the Western part of our continent.
Our tragic histories have made our countries not only underdeveloped, but also misdeveloped, this is why we need to continue the transformations we all started. It is the challenge not only for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but for the whole European Union. The World is changing around us, so we should change as well to meet all the challenges and give answers to our citizens' expectations.
The EU can help us through cohesion policy. We are, in our part of the Europe under the umbrella of EU solidarity measures. But it is our responsibility; it is your responsibility as legislators to get the work done at home.
It is not easy for me to say this. The only thing which encourages me, and gives me a sort of mandate to speak plainly and be honest, and open with you, is my own personal experience with hard and painful reforms which I had to introduce in my country ten years ago.
I can also say today, what I said a few days ago in Greece, and what I am ready to say in Portugal, Spain and in other EU countries. Which is what I also said in Lithuania and Latvia when I paid an official visit last autumn as they started their reforms.
Dear Colleagues, what I said and this is my first point, is that Romania and the EU has to reform. And it is your responsibility as Parliamentarians, and as the political elites of this country, to show leadership and to bring forward the necessary reforms. You might not become more popular, but in times of crisis, it is important to do the right thing and not the convenient thing, to serve one's country and not look at the party-political short-term benefits.
Of course this being an economic crisis it should be tackled with economic means. But I think Romanians are special among the nations of Europe and they have a specific historic dimension that helps especially in times of crisis.
You were tested many times, often under pressure, but you always survived as a nation, as a culture, and as a family.
I know that reforms are difficult, and sometimes you have to pay a high political price, but it is up to you to implement them in a responsible fashion.
While implementing your reforms you will also have to tackle as is the case with some other EU Member States, another difficult and old problem - corruption and to strengthen the rule of law, otherwise the reforms will not be complete, and the results will not be as positive as they can be.
My own government, ten years ago, made four painful reforms - in health care, in pensions, in local administration and in education. We also closed down 22 out of 60 coal mines, within months 100 000 miners were unemployed. As a matter of fact it was in my region, my own constituency!
These reforms were deeply unpopular, but they were necessary to lay the foundation for the success of my country today - the only EU country which by the way saw positive growth last year.
Without reforms the results are much worse. We only need to look at the financial crisis which the Euro zone is currently facing to see the results of a failure to act.
My second point is that the only way we will weather this storm in the whole EU is through growth and job creation. The EU needs to boost its economy through structural changes and innovations.
We need to get people back into employment; we need to create opportunities for the young. We need to invest in education, in research, in infrastructure to help modernise our economies.
My third point is that we will soon be faced with the challenge of the next multiannual financial framework; where we will have to balance a green, knowledge based economy with the continuation of the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy. You know very well how these policies can help us in Central and Eastern Europe, but without reforms this will be harder, to achieve, not easier.
It is our responsibility as politicians to explain this to our fellow Europeans.
You have a large external border of the European Union, therefore your views need to be expressed so that we can take them into account when the issues of illegal immigration, trafficking, and asylum policy are raised.
I was in Athens last week, addressing the Hellenic Parliament where I passed on a similar message. I will say to you what I said to your Greek colleagues - the European Union is much more than just a single market.
It is first of all a community, and as such it is about a sense of solidarity. Solidarity among ourselves, but also between member states. Europe will show you solidarity in these difficult times.
Romania is an important actor in Europe and we in Brussels expect a lot from Romania.
Please remember that we also need to get away from the habit of referring to Brussels as "them". Today, Brussels is "us".
Dear colleagues, make your voice as a parliament heard!
You are a key player in our neighbourhood. You have to be the driving force in the Danube strategy, in Black Sea Cooperation, in our Eastern Partnership, and in the Western Balkans.
Your experience of negotiating with the Union can help these countries make the right decisions. This will promote peace and stability in the region which is crucial for you, but it is very important for the rest of the Union as well.
Let me say this once again, Romanians are not the only Europeans who are faced with economic hardship and need to undertake tough austerity plans. All EU Member States are currently facing a difficult economic period.
But this difficult economic period is also affecting countries outside the European Union. For the candidate countries, such as Iceland, the Western Balkans and Turkey, the EU is still very attractive because of the solidarity principle which binds us together.
One could say that Romanian history is a succession of crisis and misfortunes almost unparallel in European history. But let us not be afraid of the "enormity of the possible" as your philosopher Emil Cioran once said.
The road ahead is difficult but this time you are not alone. You are an important member of our European Union with a voice that needs to be heard, and we are here to help, no matter how long and how hard that road may be.
Thank you for your attention.