Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Address by Professor Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, in Aachen at the conclusion of the Europa Forum conference on 'Deeper integration - drawing on Europe's strengths'

Aachen -
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament
Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament

Mayor Philipp,
Dr Linden,
Prime Minister Tusk,
Mrs Tusk,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have travelled from many different parts of Europe to be here this evening, and some of us have already spent the whole day debating the future of Europe. Although I was not present myself, I can see from your programme that Aachen has today been the capital of Europe, and the capital of European thought. And the assembly room of Aachen Town Hall has been more reminiscent than ever of the European Parliament. I am therefore all the more delighted to have been invited to take part in this debate.

It is no coincidence that for 60 years these annual European debates have been taking place here in Aachen, the city that became the capital of the Moselle-Rhine Euroregion, the first such region in the EU's history, at the meeting point of three countries. You established here what would not be achieved for the whole of Europe until a decade later in Schengen, and then Maastricht, and as such you were an excellent and successful 'laboratory' for genuine European integration.

However, we associate your city even more strongly with events of 1200 years ago. The great European monarch Charlemagne, patron of science and culture, reformer of European administration and education, united under his rule most of the countries of today's Union. At that time, Aachen was indeed Europe's capital. It was from this place that new ideas and decisions affecting all Europeans flowed; and here too that common values were forged.

But the experience of 12 centuries ago can also teach us how fragile even the most successful acts of unification can prove to be: Charlemagne's kingdom collapsed just a few decades after his death; war and hatred would divide Europe for the next 12 centuries.

That should serve as a stark warning to us all. Today we need a new and invigorating spirit and sense of purpose. That is why, I believe, the Charlemagne Prize award committee has decided to present the award this year, on its sixtieth anniversary, to a man who is deeply patriotic yet nevertheless symbolises the overcoming of divisions and opening up to others. He is the third Polish winner of the Charlemagne Prize, a generation younger than his predecessors but clearly and decisively linked to them: to the spirit of Solidarność that arose thanks to the spiritual guidance and support of Pope John Paul II, and to the spirit of European integration, our common 'Europeanness', which was the over-riding goal of Bronisław Geremek's work. It was they, the previous Polish winners, who blazed the trail for Poles into Europe, and they too who provided practical guidance for today's prizewinner.

Mr Prime Minister,
Dear Donald,

Europe today needs leaders like you. Our unity is being seriously tested. We must counter the threats to it.

Greece's problem is a problem for the whole of Europe. I firmly believe that here again European solidarity will protect us against a short-sightedness which, despite false temptations, would be detrimental to all Europeans.

We all have a duty to defend the European single currency. The euro is a common good, not only for those who already use it on a daily basis, but also for those who, while continuing to use the złoty, the forint, etc. for some years to come, will want to adopt it at some point in the future. The euro is both a world currency and one of the pillars of the European Union.

It is worth noting that the integrating power of a common currency was appreciated by Charlemagne himself: in 790 he put into circulation the first common European money - the silver denier.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must all take responsibility for the euro. Now is not the time for political posturing. Today we must demonstrate unity, determination and solidarity. We must show the markets that we are prepared to make the necessary expenditure in order to help not so much the banks, but our fellow citizens. It is they whom we should protect; after all, we share a common European citizenship.

But I am equally convinced that the reaction to solidarity must be responsibility. Those benefiting from our solidarity must also learn their lesson. It is in our best interest, our common European interest.

We must draw the appropriate conclusions from the current crisis. Today's Europe needs a new model for common economic governance. Without such a model, monetary union will always be vulnerable to systemic shocks. This issue has already been discussed in a report by members of the European Convention in 2002. There is no need for us to create new rules; we just have to strengthen pre-existing ones. Most important is that we fully apply those rules already in force and act in line with the spirit and the letter of the Stability and Growth Pact.

The basis for a durable exit from the crisis is economic growth, but we cannot achieve this without stabilising the European economy and then creating practical mechanisms for growth. 'Europe 2020' might also help us extricate ourselves from the crisis. However, in order for this to succeed, we would need to have a meaningful set of directives and regulations, just as we did 18 years ago when the single market mechanism was introduced.

We must create jobs. Accordingly, we must create specific programmes to this end. We need a policy on small and medium-sized enterprises, for they are the lifeblood and driving force of the European economy. We must free the potential of our regions by helping to finance the construction of information and communication technologies, energy and transport infrastructures. We need a new employment policy. There is no doubt that Europeans will have to work longer hours. If we do not, we shall lose. Most importantly, we must create favourable conditions of employment for a larger number of women while simultaneously offering meaningful support to mothers of large families. After all, we are also threatened by a demographic crisis.

The Single Market is the backbone of the European Union. In the ten years following its creation in 1992, it brought us 2.5 million new jobs and EUR 877 billion in extra prosperity. These figures speak for themselves. EU GDP grew by an additional 1.8%.

But there remain bottlenecks and gaps yet to be filled: 74 directives are still awaiting implementation.

The Services Directive, which could increase our GDP by 4%, is yet to be implemented in 18 countries, despite its deadline having passed in December 2009.

If we do not introduce essential standardisation, as we once did successfully for mobile phones and cars, then we shall limit possibilities for the exchange of goods, which is one of the most important freedoms offered by the European market. The fifth freedom of movement, which we have recently established, is freedom of movement for the fruits of research and innovation, which is accompanied by essential regulations protecting intellectual property rights.

Mario Monti reminded us all of this several days ago when, on behalf of the European Commission and President Barroso, he presented a comprehensive proposal on reinvigorating the Single Market with specific reference to the free movement of goods and services as well as energy policy. This last area is now of great significance; Europe also needs energy solidarity.

For this reason, Jacques Delors and I presented a proposal last week for the creation of a new European community - an Energy Community. As a result of its existence, our citizens will gain equal, cheaper access to energy supplies. In this day and age, the importance of the community dimension of solidarity cannot be overstated.

Last Sunday in Strasbourg, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. This declaration is still relevant today, for it provided a new model of governance. And a new politics: the politics of war and domination gave way to the politics of compromise, negotiation and discussion.

This 'spirit of Schuman' has made the European Union's history a story of success. This is because it is open to all the countries of Europe that share its values.

But today, two of the European Union's great achievements - the single market and the single currency - are threatened. We are facing a crisis. We need the 'spirit of Schuman' now just as much as we needed it 60 years ago.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to emphasise that, in facing today's threats, we alone can ensure that the ties that unite us continue to endure.

We need a common, united response on an institutional level, but even more than this, we are counting on Member States to wholeheartedly and energetically support Community actions. After all, nothing can take place without the support of free European Member States and their leaders!

This brings us to the main purpose of today's meeting and tomorrow's award ceremony. On this occasion, as in the past, the Charlemagne Prize will go to a leader whose attitude and actions have enabled him to face up to European challenges.

Tomorrow the Charlemagne Foundation and the city of Aachen will honour my compatriot, Prime Minister Donald Tusk. This gives me great joy. I want you to know that I wholeheartedly support this choice not only as a Pole, but also as a European and as President of the European Parliament.

The Polish government has been successful. When the economy was developing, it lowered taxes; it established special programmes to enable more women to take up employment; it reformed the pension system; and of particular significance - it cut expenditure in response to financial risks affecting the budget. These actions are examples of those I described a moment ago as necessary for the whole of Europe. And such actions have proven themselves to be effective, for they have strengthened the Polish economy. Last year, when its economy grew by 1.7%, Poland was the only EU Member State to experience positive economic growth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A politician's maturity is also measured by his actions when dealing with extreme situations, when dealing with death. On 10 April 2010, ninety-six Poles perished on Russian soil, in a place that has been symbolic for Poles for seventy years.

The country had to be led out of its political and emotional turmoil. So much had to be done, while so many despaired. It was crucial that someone bade farewell on behalf of Poland in simple, but poignant and sincere words, to so many of the nation's most important people, who were even more important to their friends and loved ones. This is exactly what the Prime Minister did. For several hours every day, for many days, he could be seen on television screens. His presence consoled the people and reassured them that we are still on the road to building a better future together.

The events of the past few weeks have provided even more justification for the jury's decision.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Donald,

Many years ago, under martial law, you worked as an industrial climber painting and repairing chimneys. You were earning money for your family, because the authorities had prevented you from earning money for opposition activities. That took a lot of courage. A lot of courage to be in opposition, and a lot of courage to climb chimneys.

But surely you never imagined, even as you scaled the highest of chimneys, that you would also become a political climber and reach the highest peaks of politics. Or that, as Poland's Prime Minister, your courage would be your distinguishing feature. Political courage. You are leading Poland through a European crisis with a steady hand. Now you are looking after a slightly larger family. The family that is Poland, the family that is Europe.

Members of the Charlemagne Prize Board of Directors,
Citizens of Aachen,

Awarding the Charlemagne Prize to Prime Minister Tusk is an excellent investment for the European Union. An investment from which we shall all benefit for many years to come.
I congratulate you on your choice.