Speech by Prof. Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament at the MERCOSUR Summit
Dear President Mujica
Dear Presidents, Dear Vice-Presidents,
Dear Ministers, Excellencies,
It is a great honour and pleasure to address you here today. Thank you for the invitation. We have arrived from the European Union with the largest ever political representation: the Vice-President of the European Commission, Antonio Tajani, and me, the President of the European Parliament, directly elected by 500 millions European citizens. We would like to give a strong signal: our choice today is for a strong, deep, comprehensive cooperation between the EU and MERCOSUR countries. This is my first message.
I. Strong support by the EU for MERCOSUR
The EU had welcomed the creation of MERCOSUR with enthusiasm. Our common history and battles to overcome dictatorships, our shared culture and values, our strong commitment to regional integration, contributes to make the EU and MERCOSUR natural partners.
If you permit me a personal reflection, as somebody who was fighting for democracy in my own country, in the Solidarnosc movement: I believe strongly that your experiences in transition to both democracy and a free market economy are useful models for other parts of the world. I think here of the EU's Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods in particular. There is a need for your expertise not just in Latin America but also in North Africa and in Eastern Europe.
My second message is about strengthening the cooperation between Parliaments in order to give democratic accountability to our activities. The EP has always been a driving force behind the intensification of our inter-regional relations. While others are looking towards the Asia-Pacific region, the EU remains strongly committed to strengthening our partnership, because the huge economic potential of regional integration adds to our mutual benefit.
Much has been achieved over 20 years of fruitful cooperation. Regular contacts and exchanges have been established between the EP, PARLASUR, and the national Congresses of the four Member States of MERCOSUR, most notably in the framework of the EuroLat Assembly. We welcome the strengthening of PARLASUR and the steps taken to reinforce its legitimacy, democratic accountability and powers. This can only strengthen the process of regional integration.
II. The Need for a comprehensive Association Agreement
However, one aspiration for the EU-MERCOSUR relationship remains to be fulfilled, namely the conclusion of a comprehensive Association Agreement. This is my third message. Such an agreement, which we consider as a strategic objective, is not meant to be only a free trade agreement. It will also include political dialogue and co-operation, given that both regions share similar democratic values, concerns and interests. It will facilitate cooperation between both regions in order to promote multilateral solutions to global challenges.
The economic potential of the agreement is obvious: the creation of a market of some 750 million consumers with a combined GDP close to a quarter of the world's total GDP will create enormous benefits and even greater opportunities for our citizens.
The Association Agreement needs to be both ambitious and balanced. Negotiations must take full account of the developments in the global economy, global environmental challenges, such as climate change, and the interests of specific sectors and different economic actors. Mechanisms to compensate for the effects of free trade are likely to be needed in some areas. We are aware of the sensitivities existing on both sides, but we believe the time has come to move on towards the conclusion of the Agreement.
This will still require important mutual concessions and above all political will to overcome protectionism on both sides. Significant progress has been made but we need the final push.
The European Parliament is following the negotiations very closely. We hope we can enter the crucial phase of trade negotiations by mid 2012. This should allow an agreement to be concluded before the end of next year, under Brazil's pro tempore presidency. After that, the European Parliament would start the procedures for giving its consent to the agreement. Here I believe it is necessary to involve parliamentary dialogue at an early stage in order for the process to reach a smooth conclusion.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me finish by underlining how interdependent the world economy and our societies have become, thanks also to social media. No country or region can by itself ensure sustainable growth and development.
A strong EU-MERCOSUR partnership, on the foundations of a comprehensive, ambitious and well-balanced Association Agreement, will provide the best platform for addressing these challenges together. We will negotiate together on behalf of our citizens in order to address their expectations and their beliefs. We need strong political decisions on both sides. The best time for that has just come.
Thank you for your attention.
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