Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Address by Professor Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, to the German Parliamentary Society

Berlin -
Tuesday 18/10/2011

President Wulff,

Speaker Lammert,

Chairman Riesenhuber,

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I should like to begin by thanking you very much for inviting me today. It is always an honour for me to come to Berlin to the Bundestag and be permitted to speak to you, the members of the German Parliamentary Society. The Society is 60 years old: Europe says ‘Happy birthday!’

The past 60 years have been an incredible success story for parliamentary democracy, both in Germany and in Europe as a whole. During that time, the peoples of Europe have come together to form a community which shares a common destiny – one to which they had long aspired. And Germany is at the heart of that community.

We Europeans have learned that we are dependent on one another, that we can only gain sovereignty – in the sense of the capacity for action – if we share it.

I hope you will not object if I say a few words from my personal perspective. The most recent enlargement of the European Union, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe became members, was an act of historical justice and recognition of the strivings for freedom of Europe’s peoples. It was also an act of courage which demonstrated how much energy and belief in the future continue to characterise Europe.

These are times in which we need this belief in Europe, perhaps more than ever before. Given the new challenges facing us, we need to come together and display courage again. Today we need more Europe, more solidarity, more unity.

I cannot overemphasise the point, therefore, that Europe needs Germany to keep believing in the success of this common political project. Without the drive and energy of the Germans, we can do nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Here in Europe we have developed a model for parliamentary scrutiny at all levels of our multi-tier system. We Europeans can justifiably be proud of having established the first supranational parliament whose members are elected directly in free, equal, general elections by secret ballot.

It is not without reason that I describe the European elections as ‘equal’. The class franchise system has been abolished. Each vote cast in a constituency is equal. The same applies to European elections, even if constituencies in smaller States comprise fewer voters than those in large ones.

When the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, the European Parliament became a fully fledged co-legislator in virtually all fields in which the EU wields powers.

This does not imply that the EU destroys national sovereignty. On the contrary: the Member States will remain the masters of the Treaties. The European Union is based on the principle of case-by-case conferral of powers, which remain circumscribed. We share our powers in those fields where we believe that we can exercise them to greater effect if we do so jointly. The much lauded principle of subsidiarity works best if it is applied in both directions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The economy is currently the greatest challenge facing us. Decisions are therefore being taken and preparations made which will enable us to respond to global crises more effectively in future.

The Member States must shoulder their responsibility. In the days of Solidarność, we adopted the slogan ‘There is no freedom without solidarity’. Today we can say ‘There is no solidarity without responsibility’.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is unquestionably a price to be paid for European integration. But the meaning of that project cannot be reduced to profits and losses. Its essence is moral and spiritual: its rationale lies in the shared cultivation of values which we all prize.


For 60 years, the German Parliamentary Society has made parliamentary history in Germany. Over the next 60 years I should like to see it make parliamentary history in Europe, as a central link in the network of the elected representatives of the peoples of Europe.

Thank you.


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