Address by the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek to the European Council
Today I would like to address four issues. Two of them were on your agenda. The third and fourth were not, but I believe they are just as important and topical
These subjects are: the Europe 2020 strategy; further EU action to combat climate change; the situation in Greece; and, last but not least, the European External Action Service.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Commission's proposed "EU 2020 Strategy" is a new document which still poses more questions than it offers answers, and I am glad that you will be taking the time to discuss it today. There is broad support in the EP for the Strategy.
I am convinced that the 2020 strategy has to be as concrete, as binding and as targeted as the Single Market project was 25 years ago. Without a legislative programme of some kind, it is unlikely that we will succeed.
The issue of the 'governance' of this new strategy is crucial. Whereas this body - the European Council - should and must provide overall political guidance, the Community method is vital to delivering the product. The key roles of the European Commission and the European Parliament should not be weakened here.
Whilst the member states and national parliaments need to be fully involved, the European Commission has to be in the driving seat to define which objectives and targets are relevant at EU level. That process needs to be backed by legally-binding commitments, where appropriate. Otherwise, we risk having some of the same problems we had with the Lisbon strategy.
Over-reliance on the 'open method of coordination' needs to be abandoned. It was too open and there would too little coordination. We got too stuck in a bureaucratic method, rather than a political or legislative one - which is where it should be at. It has not really led to a 'healthy competition' between member states; rather it has brought us down to the lowest common denominator. We can not afford to do this anymore.
What is crucial here is competitiveness - making Europe fit for the 21st century.
There are very concrete actions to take: we need to invest more in new technologies, and, at the same time, provide an up-to-date infrastructure - both of the modern kind of high-speed data links and energy interconnection, and the traditional kind of bricks and mortar for our roads and bridges. There has to be a twin approach - and not a single, one-size-fits-all approach.
We need a new, third, green industrial revolution.
In this time of crisis, we need as well competitiveness resulting from unlocking the potential of our regions. We need to keep developing our cohesion policy. To be successful on a global scale, the EU needs to bring along all its member states and all its regions. This not just a question of solidarity. It is a question of economic rationality.
I also believe that, to achieve our EU 2020 goals, we need a proper monitoring and review mechanism. This is why we should consider including a mid-term review in the project, starting in 2014.
Dear Heads of State and Government,
This leads me to my second point - the financial crisis and Greece.
I met with Prime Minister George Papandreou last Thursday. I applaud his determination to pursue an ambitious plan of hard economic reforms. I myself undertook several very difficult reforms as Prime Minister of Poland. I know that sometimes there is simply no choice - only tough choices can get us through difficult times.
From my own experience too, I can say that Greece cannot be left alone in facing today's economic hardship.
We need to show solidarity, but there is one pre-condition for solidarity: they must show responsibility.
This has to be our European rule: there is no solidarity without responsibility. Our Greek colleagues have to follow the reform plans to which are committed.
I would like to stress one point. We are not just discussing Greece, but the future of the euro-zone - and the future of the EU itself.
The euro is a tangible symbol of the EU's success story. Its strength needs to be not only preserved, but reinforced.
What the crisis has shown is that we need to resolve the problem which exists between economic governance and monetary union. The economic governance has to be improved.
We need to include non-Euro member states into the discussion since the zones stability has an impact on them as well.
The current situation has vindicated the rationale of the Stability and Growth Pact. Its rules must be upheld and applied by all member states. There is an insufficient sense of ownership, especially in terms of fiscal discipline.
The option of a European Monetary Fund is an interesting idea. It deserves a deeper analysis and needs to be properly designed. However, this requires time. In the short term, we have to be prepared for other solutions.
The stability of the euro-zone is crucial not only for its members, but also for those outside the zone, regardless if they want to join or not. We are one Union.
In terms of unity, I feel that at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen we learned several lessons.
We need a roadmap for taking forward the negotiations, but more importantly we need to speak with one voice in Mexico - a voice that will be heard by other global players.
When we meet in Cancun, we need to get concrete decisions. But to achieve this, we must implement what we committed ourselves to as quickly as possible.
It is a matter of trust, and it will help us bring on board China, India, Brazil and our American friends.
This brings me to my fourth and last point, which is about the European External Action Service.
From its birth, this new structure will be the size of an entire European institution! Therefore it needs to be supervised properly.
We believe that both democratic and financial accountability is best preserved by the Parliament. We are in a situation of co-decision, since the Parliament has to give its approval on financing and staffing.
We feel that it is essential that the EEAS is included in the annual budget discharge process, and I am glad that there seems to be general acceptance of this.
In terms of staff, I strongly hope that a genuine geographic balance will be maintained. Members of this new service should really represent the Union from which they come. It is not about the right of one or other country to have its staff there, it is much more important than that - we need to have in this service a variety of backgrounds and views which represent the Union as a whole.
We also feel that Special Representatives and Ambassadors to sensitive or senior posts - for example, Washington, Moscow, Beijing - should go in front of our Foreign Affairs Committee prior to taking up their posts.
The EEAS must be able to represent the interest of the Union, therefore full ownership of the service by all the EU institutions and the member states has to be secured.
This is important, because we see that the Parliamentary dimension of diplomacy is assuming an increasingly important role. By way of an example, the G8 and G20 meetings now all have a parliamentary element.
We hope therefore that in each Embassy of the Union there will be a member of staff responsible for Parliamentary affairs.
I regret that the proposal which Baroness Ashton has delivered today, does not take on board some of the points which are crucial for the Parliament.
I hope that you can take the position of Parliament regarding the EAS seriously. We should continue to negotiate between ourselves until we get this right.
I believe that all institutions and member states involved will show enough courage and political will to put the service in place without undue delay.
Concluding, the Parliament will be a partner with our EU 2020 Strategy, but we need to work on a concrete programme.
In terms of climate change, the importance is for us to come together and speak as one, rather than twenty-seven member states. This is what makes us strong, and credible.
Regarding the EEAS, I hope that a solution will be found as soon as possible. The Parliament has a clear view on this, a view I share, and I believe that we need to take the time to get it right at the beginning, rather than create an institution which will not be effective or transparent.
Regardless of differences we should and we must work together to achieve an agreement. This is expected of us by the citizens.