Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2000-01-19-Speech-3-032"

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"Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioners, I would particularly like to extend a warm welcome to Mr Jaime Gama as President-in-Office of the Council. Under the rotating presidency system, Portugal holds the presidency for the current six months. This system ensures that each Member State makes a fair contribution to the building of Europe, as long as the presidency is exercised in an effective manner whilst seeking a prudent balance between national positions and the interests of Europe as a whole. Rotation evidently means that the majority of objectives to be achieved are the subject of consensus between the Member States and the public in each of those states. Otherwise we would have a succession of diverging presidencies either lacking in strong ideas or subject to hidden agendas, which would be unacceptable. I have great hopes for the Portuguese Presidency. I hope that it will help to answer the key political question: where is the European Union going and how is it to get there? Only then can we move on to institutional reform, which is a condition or a consequence of enlargement, and which has to be achieved while respecting the balance between the nations, powers and policies of the European Union, which have been so painstakingly pursued for decades. Construction is a slow and difficult process, whilst destruction is a quick one, so this question must be approached with great caution. It could trigger off the disintegration of the European Union. Some may ask why Portugal should tackle something so complex and ambitious. My response is this: if someone needs to do this, why not Portugal? Once the key issues have been decided, we can move on to other dossiers. Our view of the European Union is incompatible with some solutions. I cannot accept talk of enlargement at any price, which some people – who are perhaps exaggerating – advocate. I cannot accept that when it comes to redistributing power, and power is what this is really all about, we should think of handing it over to an inner cabinet made up of the strongest states, or that only they should have places on and power in the European Commission. I do not accept the idea of my language not being an official language. I do not accept the idea of dismantling the common agricultural policy or that this policy should continue to benefit some and ignore others, just as I reject the loss of solidarity and the failure to seek genuine convergence in levels of development. Economic and social cohesion, which is a treaty principle, must be reinstated at the forefront of the Union’s concerns and should inform all its policies. I do not accept the continuation of the present financing system any more than I accept the lack of a common foreign and security policy. There is a lot of talk about the citizens’ Europe. If we want to gain their commitment, we need to inform them, sign them up to powerful ideas and meet their expectations. The inferior role which the European Council conferred on the European Parliament at the Intergovernmental Conference is no way to recognise its representative function. Nor is deciding one month the opposite of what the European Parliament judged fit the previous month, as happened in the case of the embargo on sales of arms to Indonesia. How can we rouse the public’s interest when they so often seem to be alienated? Let us try to respond to that. Alongside my fellow citizens, my view of the European Union is from its western border in the Azores, one of the regions designated as “ultra-peripheral” in the Treaty on European Union. What I would like to see from that standpoint, whilst continuing to live there, is equality of opportunities and approximation of living conditions. I do not see enlargement simply as the sum of the various countries’ ability to meet foreign policy challenges: I want to see sharing and solidarity, and the same scope for personal fulfilment where I live as in the north, the east, the south and the centre. I am not only interested in the major dossiers: I believe that the treaties create a framework in which people matter, and I therefore closely follow the impact of lesser European Union decisions on my region, which are still major decisions for my fellow citizens. Right now we would like to know what measures are to be taken for the ultra-peripheral regions. What is the future of milk production, on which our economy depends? We have unrivalled conditions for producing milk and know how to do this in an almost perfect symbiosis with nature. You will have realised that I have great hopes of the Portuguese Presidency. I hope that it will help to follow a path which involves maintaining delicate balances, and that it will advance the most important dossiers while putting its own stamp on them. I hope it will involve the public, and heed their legitimate aspirations. And I hope that by serving Portugal it will serve the European Union."@en1

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