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The President of the European Parliament

New Year Greetings from the President - Nicole FONTAINE

Throughout the coming year, the pace of the negotiations with the countries which have applied for membership of the European Union will pick up, particularly as those negotiations will be a priority for the Swedish Presidency.

In this way, progress should be made towards the reunification of the whole European family. This is an exciting prospect. The official visits which I have made to Poland and Slovenia, the talks I have held with the presidents of the national parliaments of the applicant countries and the visits to our Parliament by Mr Vaclav Havel and Mr Kucan have brought home to me just how strong expectations are in those countries.

However, the most moving sight was certainly the conference table at the Nice European Summit which foreshadowed future meetings of the European Council in an enlarged Union.

The year 2000 is coming to a close against a background of shattered hopes for peace in the Middle East. I trust that the joint visit to Parliament which the President of the Knesset and the President of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Mr Burg and Mr Abu Ala, made on 5 September 2000 will mark the rebirth of those hopes for peace in 2001 and that we will be able to develop a Euro-Mediterranean partnership which provides the most vigorous possible response to the expectations of the peoples of the region.

Finally, as the year comes to an end a citizens' Europe has moved a step closer to fruition with the signing of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, symbolising acknowledgement of the fact that the only remedies to citizens' problems are European remedies.

I hope that in 2001 we will take practical steps towards the establishment of a genuine public health policy and a genuine policy for the protection of our environment.

I send my warmest best wishes to each and every one of you and to your families. May Europe succeed in bringing us closer together.
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