Legislative and work programme for 2004 – Eurostat

Mr President, Mr Prodi, you are right to make the issue of enlargement the central priority for 2004 in your proposals. In reality, enlargement has been formally agreed but in many people´s minds – perhaps in this House, but especially in the wider population – it is still not truly complete. For that reason, the Commission is right to focus in the coming months on ensuring that where there is corruption, where there are administrative issues to be resolved, and where nuclear safety is at stake, all the countries which are due to accede to the European Union on 1 May 2004 are genuinely preparing to do so.
Our negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania must continue too. We must state clearly and unequivocally that 2010 is the envisaged date – but no country can assume that the envisaged date will be the actual date unless they persist with the reforms they have begun.
Mr Prodi, you will have the task of preparing the Council´s decision on Turkey next year. However, I would ask you to consider this: unless a positive decision is adopted in favour of opening accession negotiations, you will need to come up with ideas on how we can intensify our cooperation with Turkey until – and, indeed, during – the opening of negotiations. The events of recent days in Istanbul demonstrate the importance of cooperation with Turkey, especially on security issues. This closer and coordinated cooperation with Turkey is essential, irrespective of the accession issue.
Enlargement also raises the issue of effective and secure external borders. I agree that this is an important aspect of our development, also in the context of the wider Europe. However, cooperation with our neighbours is also essential, for example, in preventing cross-border crime and combating the evils of human trafficking. Developments in the Balkans have shown that it is quite possible for the European Union to shape this cooperation productively. However, it is also crucial that when we talk about migration, we also talk about integration. I hope that the Commission will point out to some countries that it is not just a matter of restricting migration. The task is also to integrate the people who come to the European Union more fully into our societies.
As regards policies for growth, which your programme also deals with extensively, we support the Commission´s proposals on investment in networks and knowledge. We need a swift decision here. This House must make some swift decisions in order to implement the Growth Initiative. Emphasising investment is all well and good, but networks and knowledge need investment too. Indeed, experience in recent months has shown that if we merely liberalise without creating incentives for investment in networks – such as energy or transport – at the same time, the temporary or even the longer-term collapse of networks may be the result. If we want to modernise Europe, we – and that means the European Union as a whole and, of course, all the individual Member States – must increase investment not only in knowledge but also in our infrastructure.
On the issues of liberalisation and harmonisation, I would ask you, Mr Prodi, also to consider that we are trying to achieve a European social model. In my view, this is not adequately expressed in your paper. I sometimes have the impression that we are more liberal than the neoliberals in their theory books and more American than the Americans in some of our steps towards harmonisation and liberalisation. We must consider the social consequences. We must make combating social exclusion and poverty a priority. In some countries, poverty is on the increase again. Surely that is a catastrophe? This may also be due to the fact that the austerity programmes do not adequately consider how spending cuts and liberalisation measures impact on various social groups. That is not an argument against liberalisation, but simply an argument for considering the social impacts of unemployment etc.
In this context – and in my view, the paper does not focus adequately on this issue either – I would like to highlight the importance of public services, which we will be discussing next week in this House. Many public services are a particular feature of the European social model which we wish to stand up for, clearly and unequivocally, also to the outside world. I therefore ask you to take more account of that in your work
I would like to make two further comments. The first concerns foreign policy. This Parliament has very often discussed the position of this House and the European Union on the Middle East. We must have the strength and determination to pursue the goal we have set ourselves and clearly support all peace initiatives, the most recent being the Geneva Accord. However, none of the developments in the Middle East and none of the criticism we voice towards Israel remotely justifies anti-Semitic statements or actions. Europe must be clear that criticism of the present Israeli Government´s position cannot be a motive for any kind of anti-Semitic words or deeds. We should all have learned the lesson of the disaster of the Second World War in particular, and together, we should resolutely counter all forms of discrimination and anti-Semitism, notwithstanding our clear position on the Middle East.
Mr Prodi, you have heard our views today. We want a strong Commission President and a strong Commission. Please do not add grist to the anti-European mill by raising uncertainty or, indeed, doubts that you will represent a strong Commission as its President until the elections next year. This is essential to ensure that when the voters go to the polls in June, they know what they are voting for, namely a strong and united Europe with a strong Commission and Commission President.