Presentation by its President of the new Members of the enlarged European Commission
Mr President, Mr President of the Commission, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that 1 May was a day on which – as a leader article in a German newspaper put it – we emerged from the long shadow cast by Hitler and Stalin. Now, though, we have to start trudging across the flatlands of day-to-day life. That, above all, is what the Commission is there for, but not in the sense that we need to be led by technocrats or bureaucrats. Far from it; what we need is politically-minded people, Commissioners of flesh and blood who are not in thrall to party policy. On that, Mr Poettering and I agree. However, Mr Poettering, I would congratulate you if you were to say that to certain other members of the Commission, from all of whom – and its Vice-President in particular – we have heard or read comments that do not exactly testify to the Commission´s neutrality.What we need is members of the Commission who have a vision for Europe and the capacity to make policy, something that I regard as crucial, and so we in the Group of the Party of European Socialists have something to ask of you. First, we ask you to make it abundantly clear that you possess those things; in the hearings, some of you were rather reticent. It may be that you still feel shy, or perhaps you were more anxious than you probably will be after some time has passed – although you should always be a little bit afraid! What is most important, though, is something else, namely the European social model, which we want to make a reality. There are those, including within this House, who would perhaps prefer its foundations to be swept away by a neoliberal storm. We prefer the spring wind, which may perhaps be a bit lukewarm, but it does refresh Europe with new blossoms and new leaves, without destroying the trees that grow here.We also have to reduce a lot of Europe´s deficits. For these, you bear a great deal of responsibility – and not just for the budget deficits. There are others; there are, for example, too few jobs. Europe is suffering from deficits in employment policy. As the President of the Commission has said, our competitors are in America, in China, and now in India. I warn against competing only among ourselves, with the lowest possible tax rates, in order to push each other out of the market, and then, as a matter of policy, relocating jobs from one part of the continent to others. Instead, we want to join together in creating jobs in this continent of ours.We also need to take the Lisbon strategy seriously, and then even more seriously; that much is evident to me from seeing what is going on in some countries as regards investments in education, training, research and development, as well as infrastructure. Thinking of transport policy, for example, the infrastructure in the new Member States is very poor and underdeveloped. What I would like to see, not only from these countries, but also from the European Budget, is more money for education, research, for development, and also for infrastructure. There is no doubt that there is a link between this and sustainable development.Taking Kyoto as our slogan, the second example is the legislation on chemicals. In these areas, too, we in Europe must be pioneers, but, above all where external economic policy is concerned, we must ensure that we are not alone in implementing Kyoto and adopting stringent laws on chemicals. Instead, we must avail ourselves of every opportunity to urge others, America, Russia, China, and Japan among them, to abide by these agreements. Otherwise – and this is where I agree with the Vice-President, not where her comments on the Spanish Government are concerned – we will end up in serious difficulties as regards competition and our competitive position, with consequent heavy demands being made of external economic policy.Mrs Hübner, thank God, answered that question in the affirmative. External economic policy, too, must become a means whereby we defend our European social model, for example where public services are concerned. It is not acceptable for the Commission to keep on defying a vote of this House by attempting to put the liberalisation and eventual privatisation of water, local public transport, health and education on the agenda. Our group, too, is in favour of opening up markets, and we have, together with the Commission, taken positive action in this respect; I, for example, did so in relation to railways. There are areas, though, that are of the very essence of what we understand as being a national or European social model, so that should be accepted accordingly and they should continue as such.As I have already said, we want a political Commission, with Commissioners of flesh and blood who speak their political minds in this House. We want a Commission with which we can argue. There are several I can see here, with whom I have been more than happy to argue, for they too were emotional, because there was sometimes rage and anger underlying their actions. Under such circumstances, we can argue with you, and you should argue with us, but be frank with us, be honest with us, without evading the issues! If your arguments with us are characterised by frankness and honesty, then we will support you for the sake of Europe as a whole, in which, of course, we all have a very great political interest.