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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Address to the European Parliament by Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, current President of the European Council

Date of Speech : 12-01-2005

Place : European Parliament, Strasbourg

Speaker : Jean-Claude Juncker

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : European Parliament plenary session

Mr President,


President of the Commission,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always a great pleasure for me to travel to Strasbourg, a European city par excellence, a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany, crossroads where so many European ambitions meet, an intersection of so many continental dreams. In addition to the pleasure I also have an honour, the honour to present to the European Parliament, to the elected representatives of the peoples of Europe, the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union.

The Luxembourg Presidency follows the one of our Dutch friends. It is dear to my heart to pay tribute to their work, to their tenacity, and to their undeniable successes. The European Union made considerable progress under the Dutch Presidency. I hope that at the end of Luxembourg’s eleventh Presidency, I will be able to say as much.

The experience of our previous presidencies can certainly be useful and valuable. But presidencies come and go and none is alike the other. In 1985, when I presided over the Council of Ministers, there were ten Members States inside the European Communities. When I presided over the Council in 1991, there were twelve ministers around the table. And when I was in the chair of the Council in 1997, there were fifteen of us. There are twenty-five Member States today. In twenty years the number of Member States has more than doubled. Of course, decision-making has become more complicated. But what joy, what happiness, to see that today’s European Union includes the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, countries that a dire decree of history sought to take away from us forever!

The experience of our respective presidencies and the observation of the successive presidencies of others have taught me two lessons:

  • First, the European Union can truly progress only if those who preside over it eliminate their national interests from the centre of their concern, replacing them with the common interest that is the best definition of the interest of all;
  • Second, the European Union will be truly coherent and harmonious only if all of us observe the spirit and the letter of the community method and the triangular institutional balance.

The Commission is not a linesman who merely oversees compliance with the rules of the internal market; the Commission must be the leader of the game, the inspiration and the driving force. The Council is not the playground of national interests alone, no matter how justified they may be, but rather a workshop for fostering agreements. The Parliament has no place in the bleachers; the Parliament is not a spectator, but a privileged player because universal suffrage has bestowed legitimacy upon it. And thus you will see me often in your meetings, in your offices, in your corridors in Brussels and Strasbourg. This applies to me, it applies to my ministers, and it applies to all those who are working for the Presidency, and hence also for you.

Together we must make sure that the new Constitutional Treaty is ratified under good conditions. Of course, the draft Constitution is not perfect. But let us not compare it to the ideal world. Let us gauge it by the yardstick of what Europe will need in order to continue to set an example for the rest of the world. Let us do today what must be done so that it can happen tomorrow and let us ratify the Treaty. Let us keep in mind that the Treaty is neither left nor right. Its content will be the result of our convictions, our will and our ambition. If our will and ambition are perfect, the implementation of the new Treaty that may be imperfect from a theoretical point of view, will in practice bring about successes that are probably perfect.

The ratification of the Treaty will not be easy everywhere. In this context, I have one major concern: Let us not use the problems arising from ratifications by Parliament or by referendum as an excuse to slow down the pace of our action and our momentum for taking decisions. Let us not postpone the most difficult decisions until after the first referendum, and then until after the second, and then the third, and so forth. When we ask peoples and parliaments of Europe for approval, let us prove to them that Europe works, that Europe is moving forward, that Europe takes decisions and assumes its responsibilities. Vigorous action on behalf of the European Union can win over those who doubt; failing to act can bring those who did not doubt round to start doubting.

Mr President,

This year, the terrible tragedy of the tsunami in South-East Asia has cast a shadow over the usually solemn character of the taking up of duties of the new Presidency. The horrific pictures of the dead, the injured and the destruction have loomed as an immense shadow over the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005. For years to come, the memory of this tragedy will be with us and I hope that beyond the immediate relief effort, we will also in the long run stand by the afflicted peoples and the devastated regions of Asia. I would also hope that the misery we see today in Asia will not make us forget poverty, under-development, hunger and unjust death elsewhere. Our hearts must go out to where television cameras have departed from or where they have never been.

Mr President,

The European security strategy invites us to promote peace, democracy and stability by fighting the deep causes of insecurity in the world.

The coherent and integrated use of the Union’s set of instruments will be particularly necessary in the Western Balkans, in the Middle East, in our relations with Russia and Ukraine, and in our transatlantic relations.

The Balkans: the future of this region, still traumatised by its recent past, must be seen in the European perspective. The start of accession negotiations with Croatia in March 2005, once full-fledged cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia has been confirmed, will demonstrate to all the Balkan countries that their democratisation efforts will be rewarded and successful.

As far as the other countries in the region are concerned, the general framework of the European Union’s action will continue to be the Thessalonica Agenda that describes the European perspective being offered to the countries of the Western Balkans. The Luxembourg Presidency will pursue negotiations with Albania on a stabilisation and association agreement. Another crucial moment in the region in mid-2005 will be the review of the implementation of the policy of standards in Kosovo. We will pay particular attention to developments in Kosovo. I am of the opinion that, regardless of its status, Kosovo’s future lies inside the European Union.

Russia: The Russian Federation is a strategic partner of the European Union and will continue to be a major player in European security and stability. Yet, the state of our relations with our Russian neighbour is unsatisfactory today. I will do everything possible to remedy that, but will do so without relinquishing our key requirements. At the EU-Russia Summit on the 10th  May in Moscow, the Presidency will strive for a balanced deal on the four common areas identified at the St. Petersburg Summit in May 2003, based on common values and shared interests.

Ukraine: The European Union will establish close relations with Ukraine’s new President, particularly in the context of implementation of the new Neighbourhood policy. It is very much in our interest to have a stable and prosperous neighbour, a Ukraine firmly anchored in democracy, a Ukraine that has set out on the path towards modernisation. The Presidency will work tirelessly to prepare for the Summit between the Union and the Ukraine, scheduled to take place under the British Presidency.

Transatlantic relations: the world and its stability need a transatlantic partnership that works. Today, transatlantic relations are neither poor nor excellent. But, to tell the truth, the status quo is not an option that meets existing expectations on both sides of the Atlantic. Consequently, we must improve the quality of our relations, obviously in everyone’s interest. We will do so at the two Summits we will have with President Bush, the first in February at the request of the American President, and the second in June. We will concentrate not on the differences of opinion that some of us may have had with the United States in the recent past, but on attempting to reach an agreement on a series of concrete issues for which we will have to devise concrete solutions. Transatlantic relations would not be complete without Canada, and I am looking forward to a Summit during which we shall address between friends all issues of mutual importance.

It also gives me great pleasure to be able to announce that a summit will be held between the European Union and Japan during the Luxembourg Presidency.

Finally, I would like to say a word about the Middle East. On 9 January, with the election of President Abbas as the head of the Palestinian Authority and with the prospect of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a window of opportunity has opened to jump start the peace process and accelerate the implementation of the roadmap. We must seize this opportunity now. In this context, I wish to welcome the Middle East conference scheduled for March 2005 in London. This will be an essential step towards strengthening the peace process.

During Luxembourg’s Presidency, the enlargement process of the European Union will continue on the basis of the decisions taken by the European Council last December. We will start accession negotiations with Croatia in March. As for Bulgaria and Romania, I hope that the European Parliament will formulate an assent for accession of these two countries and that we will then be able to sign the treaties of accession in April.

Mr President,

We will not be successful in bringing the European Union closer to its citizens if we are unable to meet the justified expectations of our citizens in the area of internal security.

The new Constitutional Treaty maps out the path of the definitive elimination of the "JHA exception", in other words, the full and complete integration of the JHA field into European integration by a thorough application of the community method. The JHA work under our Presidency will be fully in line with this perspective. The basis for our work will be the excellent “The Hague Programme�?, adopted by the European Council last November.

To ensure the realisation of the area of freedom, security and justice, we must “think European�? before we “think national�?. We must promote the swift development of a European culture of security. This requirement applies in particular to the fight against serious and organised crime. The promotion of the area of freedom, security and justice is, in our opinion, an essential project and I would even dare to say that it is an existential one.

First it will be necessary to improve in an optimal way operational cooperation among Member States. For example, we must make it possible for there to be a swift and efficient exchange of information among the law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities of the Member States. This “availability principle�? will be a major step forward in the field of cooperation among law enforcement agencies. Luxembourg’s Presidency will begin working on these issues without delay. The Presidency also wishes to consolidate the European judicial area, based primarily on mutual recognition and the approximation of laws. We will in particular push forward negotiations on the European evidence warrant and on the possible implementation of a European criminal record. European security will be strengthened, but not at the expense of public freedoms that are part of the European way of living together.

The fight against terrorism must be a permanent priority. In this context, I welcome the Spanish initiative for a meeting of the Heads of State or Government in Madrid. Luxembourg’s Presidency will place special emphasis on the fight against the financing of terrorism.

As for asylum and immigration, the Presidency will concentrate on three points: strengthening partnerships with the countries of origin and transit; the establishment of a harmonised approach for return and re-admission policy; and, on 1 May, the launch of the work of the European agency for the management of external borders.

Mr President,

We often refer to the People’s Europe, and rightly so. But let us have no illusions: If we are not successful in making the European Union an area of labour and well-being for all, the people will distance themselves from Europe, its Union and the political project that underpins the Union.

To address this risk, and to return Europe to its economic and social status, we launched the Lisbon Strategy almost five years ago. We wanted - and still want - to make the European Union the most competitive and most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, an economy capable of sustainable economic growth with qualitative and quantitative improvements in employment, an economy that generates greater social cohesion, and an economy respectful of the environment and natural resources.

After five years of qualified success, the mid-term review is upon us. We shall draw it up at the Spring European Council.

  • First, we must clarify the goal of what our strategy must be.

The Lisbon Strategy - a name that most of us find impossible to understand - is in fact a strategy for competitiveness, growth, social cohesion and environmental protection. We must establish a sound basis for the sustainable well-being of Europeans. We must act today to ensure that tomorrow everyone has access to the European social model which must not degenerate into a myth, but which must remain or rather once again become a living reality for all of us. If we wish to guarantee an intact European social model, it must be reshaped to become a response to growth, under-employment, a weakening social fabric, the loss of competitiveness and productivity, declining demography, and the ageing of our populations. It is true that Europeans do not like reforms. Reforms frighten them. They do not understand their merits. And so we must explain to them that the reforms we are planning aim at the survival and viability of the European social model. We must convince them that postponed reforms are the costliest of all. We must prove to them that we are right to act and that it would be wrong of us not to act. We have to launch Europe back into orbit.

  • And when we draw up the mid-term review of our strategy, we must keep its three dimensions together: economic, social, and environmental. I am well aware that Europe has a problem with competitiveness, which largely explains its poor performance in terms of growth and jobs.

Competitiveness—it is true—must be strengthened. But this is not an end in itself, a neutral service that stands alone. No. The renewed competitiveness that should enable us to achieve stronger and more sustainable growth must include the goal of greater social cohesion and a more harmoniously balanced environment. So please, let us not embark on a unfruitful debate to determine whether we need more competitiveness and hence less social cohesion, or more social cohesion and less environmental protection. If Europe wants to be strong, she needs three things that go together: improved competitiveness, greater social cohesion and a more balanced ecological environment. I say yes to competitiveness; I say no to abandoning our social and ecological goals. I say yes to the opening of the services market. I say no to social dumping that some would like to see go along with it.

  • Finally, we must think about the correct method for ensuring the strategy’s success.

After five years of navigating between successes and failures, the question is not so much determining what we must do. In fact, we know what we must do. Rather, the question is how we should go about doing what we must do. We must develop the European area of knowledge, enhance research efforts, improve our educational systems, and improve lifelong learning. We must do it. But how?

We have too many processes. We have the broad economic policy guidelines, the employment guidelines, the strategy for sustainable development, the internal market strategy, the charter for small and medium-sized enterprises, the Cologne process, the Cardiff process, and the list goes on. All of these processes in many cases have become mired in bureaucratic procedures that lead us nowhere. The Union looks more like a designing office - one that is left unused – rather than a factory of applicable and applied ideas. We must change this by streamlining our strategy.

  • Our strategy is essentially European; its implementation must first be national.

We want the strategy to remain essentially European. It must be entirely reviewed every other year or preferably every three years. We cannot change our strategy every six months, from one European Council to the next, depending on the will and random decisions by presidencies and on their successive inspirations. The strategy must be a long-term proposition.

We want national implementation to be speedenend up and focused. We shall propose that Member States prepare national action programmes that should be drawn up together with social partners and presented to national parliaments which, together with the community institutions, would oversee their implementation. These national programmes would take national and regional characteristics into account and should make it possible to allow for differences of pace and intensity of the respective national reforms; performances already achieved would be better taken into account.

So far for the strategy and the method for its implementation. We shall revisit this in detail: you, the Parliament, we, the Council, and both of us with the Commission, which will soon present its synthesis report.

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The partial reorientation of the Lisbon Strategy also invites us to reflect on the Stability and Growth Pact. We began reconsidering this under the Dutch Presidency, and we would like to conclude during Luxembourg’s Presidency.

We shall reform the pact. Or rather: we are going to adjust its implementation measures.

Allow me to explain.

First I shall explain what we are not going to do.

The Economic and Monetary Union needs stability. As a result, we shall not eliminate stability from our vocabulary or from our practice. Stability is part of the Founding Pact on which the euro is based. We promised a stable currency. The currency will remain stable and will remain strong.

The result - and I prefer to say it at the outset - is that the Presidency will not propose neutralising or immunising certain categories of expenditures in the implementation of the Pact.

This means that the basic criteria - 3 percent deficit and 60 percent public debt - shall remain valid.

But it is obvious to me that changes are necessary.

Changes are necessary particularly so that the Pact is better able to take into account the economic cycle.

In periods of strong economic growth, the Member States of the Euro Zone must be required to allocate budget surpluses first and foremost to deficit and debt reduction. We will bolster the Pact’s preventive dimension with a strong dose of additional stability.

In periods of slow growth, the Member States of the Euro Zone must have more reactive flexibility for the budget. This flexibility will be even larger since efforts to lower the deficit and the debt will be more substantial during phases of economic growth.

During periods of slow growth, if a State shows a budget deficit, such a situation and the ensuing consequences will be judged using objective data for evaluation. We must at all costs avoid arbitrary policy judgements that could result in different evaluations depending upon the size of the Member State.

I urge you to engage in a dispassionate debate of Pact reform. I would warn against extreme solutions: I say no to those who want to replace stability with boundless flexibility; I say no to those who want to turn the Pact as it stands into a fixed dogma. We need more stability and more flexibility according to the phase of the economic cycle.

Mr President,

You would probably be surprised if I did not mention the long debate we are going to have on financial perspectives.

Today I shall not address the various components of this difficult issue. You know them better than I do.

I will simply say this:

We will do everything to reach an agreement on financial perspectives before the end of June. But I have no illusions: Member States have locked themselves into rigid and frozen positions and they will have difficulty in extricating themselves from them in time. But “in time�? is now. If we are unable to reach an agreement on a common position under Luxembourg’s Presidency, on 1 January 2007 we will be unable from a legislative and technical point of view to meet the challenges of the enlarged European Union. Consequently, it will not be in the interest of any institution or any Member State to seek extensions. Failing to reach an agreement by June will not be the failure of the Presidency. It will be the failure of Europe. So, let us decide, let us decide quickly and let us decide now. Let us spare Europe from a lengthy debate that will span eighteen months, with numerous disputes that will feed conflicts.

I am counting on your Parliament to advance decision-taking on financial perspectives. We will work with you because your consent is necessary. You will not be faced with a fait accompli, I promise.

And so, Mr President, there you have the most important parts of the Presidency’s programme.

Presidencies come and go, but Europe lives on. We want to serve Europe with determination and passion, with this determination and this passion that long distances and grand ambitions require.

This page was last modified on : 11-03-2005

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