Full speech of European Parliament President to European Council on 26 March
Ladies and gentlemen, it would be nice to think that we were coming together today to discuss the Conference on the Future of Europe. But today we are called upon to write together the true future of Europe, following a pandemic that is upsetting the world.
We all sense that the time has come to throw off the shackles and demonstrate the same determination as all those - doctors, healthcare professionals, volunteers, workers in essential services - who are in the front line of the fight to save the lives of our fellow citizens and protecting our society.
We must prove to our citizens that the European Union is the answer to this emergency and the crisis which will follow. This is why it is crucial to ensure continuity of the work of our institutions. I want to assure you that the European Parliament is more than ever on the front line of ensuring its function and exercising the necessary control.
The primary response must of course focus on health encouraging concrete solidarity. But we already know for sure that the Covid19 outbreak will also trigger an unprecedented contraction in the European economy, at a time when it was already suffering from low growth and excessively low inflation. We cannot afford that the serious health crisis we are now experiencing will develop into a financial, economic, social and political crisis.
The urgency and the external and symmetric nature of this crisis make it necessary to think about a medium- and long-term instrument to relaunch the European economy, protect employment and our social model.
The EU institutions have already taken significant measures: the package put forward by the Commission, which the European Parliament is approving today; the decision to suspend the Stability and Growth Pact; the Commission proposal for a Temporary Framework for State aid measures; the important decision by the European Central Bank to do whatever it takes to maintain normal financing conditions in the euro area; the significant steps the Commission has taken to coordinate the management of internal borders in order to guarantee transit for persons, health supplies and goods, to safeguard the internal market.
We regard it as important that consideration be given to the option of increasing the capital of the European Investment Bank, with a view to assisting in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, which are currently bearing the full brunt of the crisis.
For the moment, however, we must concentrate on devising new instruments, in the knowledge that an extraordinary situation calls for equally extraordinary responses.
Let's also remember that when we resume negotiations on MFF.
We believe, therefore, that in addition to using the existing measures - which were designed to address very different problems, and will therefore need significant adjustment - we need to work together to develop new instruments.
We believe, together with many of you, that we need to work on a common debt mechanism, issued by a European institution, which will enable us to raise funds on the market on the basis of the same terms for all and to finance the policies needed to relaunch the Union after this pandemic.
No one should back down. Everyone must feel committed to protecting our countries. This crisis will either reveal our real ability to build the future of Europe or it will mean the defeat of the European project.
Leadership is needed because the challenge will not end with the end of the current emergency.
We must immediately start preparations to rebuild our economies and relaunch our societies along the sustainable development lines set out in the European Green Deal. It is vital, therefore, that we draw the appropriate lessons from this crisis. Parliament stands ready to do its part.
We must not make the mistakes of 2008. We should take that opportunity to modernise our economy, for greener and more inclusive. We should also take this opportunity to modernise and harmonise our social model. We are able to take the fight to the coronavirus thanks to our health systems, let’s acknowledge this.
We have welcomed the support given to research, but now we feel the need to define a European research government. How can we explain to our citizens that, after the “mad cow” crisis, we are much more effective in combating animal epidemics than those affecting people?
The European Parliament has shown great participation in conditions of extreme hardship. Today, 687 Members voted to adopt the measures launched by the European Commission.
Parliament will remain open and we hope to have the necessary measures to vote on soon.
The moment is serious and Parliament will not stand by and watch.
We are ready to cooperate and we expect you, too, to exercise genuine responsibility and to provide clear, concrete indications.
There is no time for further postponements.
On another, happier note, I am happy that the important issue of opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia have been kept as a subject to be addressed today. The European Parliament is fully supporting the opening of accession negotiations and the new methodology. This will offer an invaluable lapse of time to motivate the leaders and the populations of these countries to do the necessary, but sometimes painful reforms needed for accession.