Remarks by Professor Jerzy Buzek - President of the European Parliament "Meeting with EU Heads of Delegations"
As this is the last time I will address you as President of the European Parliament, I will make a few remarks on how I see our inter-institutional relations, as well as some reflections on my most recent visits to third countries. I welcome this exchange of views that we can have on a regular basis.
First, it is clear that the Treaty of Lisbon has strengthened the EU's role in Foreign Policy. It also significantly enhanced the European Parliament's role in external action. This was not only needed, but welcome - especially in these uncertain times.
We in the European Parliament are here to help support the development of a strong EU role in the world. We are your partners. We believe in a politically strong EEAS capable of action. We are convinced that the political strength of this service also relies on its democratic legitimacy and accountability. This gives the service a strong foundation for its actions. This is why we insisted on political accountability during the negotiations on setting up the Service.
We are also clear that your role as EU Heads of Delegations needs to be strengthened. You need to be able to guarantee the unity of the EU's representation on the ground. You and your staff are the Ambassadors of all the institutions, policies, and programmes.
On this point I am convinced we have to overcome artificial or administrative divides between the Commission and EEAS. Especially in the Delegations. This is essential in pursuing the principle of a coherent EU external action, a principle the European Parliament will continue to promote.
With regard to political accountability - the European Parliament welcomes the already well established and very positive practice of hearings. I can say that the experience in our AFET Committee, with the hearings of newly appointed Ambassadors, is seen positively. Some of you know what I am talking about, and I am sure you share my assessment. But we believe that this exchange should continue after the hearings, where information is passed on to our relevant committees and to our Members.
We need to be adequately and timely informed of events on the ground. This is true for both our political role as MEPs, as it is for developing our positions on important legislative matters - not least in trade and development cooperation.
Issues of confidentiality are not obstacles to the establishment of this dialogue. We simply need rules which allow you as Heads of Delegations to feel comfortable that the messages you convey will be treated with the necessary caution. But this will enable parliamentarians to look at the situation before they take a position. It is natural that we will not agree on everything, but when we disagree it should be through discussion and debate here in Brussels. But we can not discuss if we do not have proper access to the facts.
My second related remark is on the increasing role of the European Parliament in foreign affairs. I have always believed that parliamentary diplomacy can be a useful complement to traditional diplomacy. My involvement, but also the involvement of many of my colleagues in Moldova for example, have helped move the process along. I believe that we have played an important role in the Western Balkans, in Tunisia and starting to do so in Libya as well.
I firmly believe that in these challenging times we should use all diplomatic channels, both formal and informal, including Parliamentary relations to support democratic forces. Wherever they are.
Furthermore, we cannot and should not be blind to our partners when they ignore fundamental rights or bend the rules of democratic life. If we need to deliver uncomfortable messages to our partners then the European Parliament can be a useful vehicle for this. In my meeting in the Caucuses, in China, and Russia I conveyed our concerns relating to human rights, democratic reforms, and the rule of law. I have conveyed this same message in all of my missions, as have my colleague MEPs whose interparliamentary delegations visit our partner countries.
But at the same time, we should all endeavour not to repeat the mistakes in North Africa where a "business as usual" attitude made us less sensitive to the concerns of the people at the start of the Arab Spring. I am glad to say that after my visits three weeks ago to both Libya and Tunisia, that the EU is seen as a friend.
Sometimes a solution is not achievable overnight, in the Middle East for example, but here too the European Parliament can help. We are seen as an honest broker, having good access to both sides depending on individual MEPs. As a matter of fact our Delegation to Israel and the one to the PLC are increasingly cooperating on many issues.
But our greatest success in foreign policy as the European Union remains our enlargement policy. The European Parliament is a strong supporter of this policy. We are about to welcome Croatia and I have good hope that through our joint efforts Serbia will get candidate status by the end of the year.
I am a little bit more worried about Turkey from where I just came back. There the motor of European integration is unfortunately stalled. This is not good news for either Turkey or the EU. It is also important that here too we reactivate our win-win strategy.
The lesson I draw from my visits is as follows - we need to continue being engaged not just with governments but with civil society. We need to support NGOs, women's organisations, journalists, and political parties. Democratisation is a long term commitment. The European Parliament will help for the long term.
I would like to end by personally thanking you for your help in these past two and a half years. I have relied on you many times when travelling in my official capacity to third countries. And MEPs have benefitted from your kind support in assisting their visits. This is very much appreciated. As you know I may leave the office of President, but I remain an MEP and I am sure we may have the pleasure of meeting again.
I look forward to our discussion
Press Team Leader
Mobile: +32 498 981 550
Mobile: +32 498 98 32 39