in Brussels on 28 March 2007
Mr President of the Commission,
Distinguished members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be speaking to you again today here in the European Parliament, this time in Brussels.
We have just reached the halfway mark of Germany's Presidency. After last weekend, I believe we can claim to have taken a substantial step towards mastering two major tasks facing us all during these six months.
Firstly, we have made progress in energy and climate policy. Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has already spoken to you about this here in the European Parliament. I would like to take this opportunity to stress once more that in the key sphere of energy and climate policy the Council has succeeded in formulating important conclusions based on the Commission's proposals and thus demonstrated the European Union's capability to act in this field.
That is so important because, of course, we know that Europe can only lead the way in this area if it can set itself ambitious targets. Actually reaching these targets will, of course, require more work. We know that. But, after all, that is quite normal in day-to-day politics: you take one step and if that is successful then further steps follow.
The spirit in which we have managed to agree on a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 as well as binding targets on increasing the share of renewable energies in total consumption to 20 percent should enable us both to present a united front in the international negotiations ahead and to master our next task, namely to break down these figures into individual targets for Member States. I therefore ask Parliament's backing. We have already received much support in this sphere. With this encouragement, I am certain the Council will be able to formulate the necessary conclusions.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us look at the second key step we took last weekend. The Berlin Declaration underscored on the one hand the success of the European Union and, on the other, the major tasks we still face.
I would first of all like to sincerely thank the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, as well as all presidents of the parliamentary groups in this House. We succeeded in getting a joint Berlin Declaration signed by Parliament, Commission and the members of the Council. I believe the fact that our cooperation made such a Berlin Declaration possible, is of value in itself because it demonstrates the commitment of everyone involved in Europe to work together for its future.
When we look at the Berlin Declaration, we see that highlighting our common values forms an important part. It also very ambitiously states that we have an ideal of European society and that we will work together to preserve this ideal. This ideal of European society consists of a canon of values close to our hearts: freedom, solidarity, equity.
We are asked anew every day: how are you going to implement these values? That is why I was so touched that today's European Parliament session began with a strongly worded statement by the members and Parliament on events in Zimbabwe. I stressed in my speech on Sunday that the suffering of the people in Darfur is unbearable. We have to express our concern and act. The Presidency will do everything it can to introduce tougher resolutions in the UN Security Council to ensure that headway is finally made here. But I believe that the European Union also has to consider implementing its own sanctions, should no agreement be reached in the Security Council. For this issue should matter to us. Indeed, it does matter to us but we also have to take action.
I also made it clear on Sunday – I believe we all share this view – that we are aware that 25 March is Independence Day in Belarus and that we wanted to say to our friends in Belarus: you, too, have a right to enjoy European values and we intend to support you along the way.
I would also like to take this opportunity to stress that the European Union will send a clear message to Iran that its arrest and detention of 15 British seamen is totally unacceptable. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our British friends.
This also demonstrates that we are strong when we present a united front. There are many, many things which we can only achieve together. Inversely, if Member States of the European Union are to feel responsible for one another in difficult times, then we have to work together in the greatest possible number of spheres. Integration, support in difficult situations and solidarity can only be expected if each country is prepared to look after the interests of the others. We should be guided by this principle in all forthcoming tough political decisions.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the Berlin Declaration we turned to the future and said: we want to achieve two things. Firstly, we want to place the European Union on a "renewed common basis" by 2009.
Although I know that the vast majority of the European Parliament back this – and I would like to thank you for your support – I want to emphasize once more that an election campaign for the European Parliament in 2009 where we cannot say to people
- that we can enlarge the European Union,
- how many members the European Commission will have in future,
- that energy policy is a European competence, i.e. that Europe has a common energy policy,
- that, where appropriate, we cooperate on internal security and legal issues on the basis of majority decisions,
would only widen the distance between the institutions and Europe's citizens.
It is therefore crucial that we all demonstrate our ability to find common solutions. The Germans have been given a mandate to present a roadmap for this. We will not find a solution to the problem – I want to stress that here and now – but this roadmap must set out the direction we are to take. We will work hard to fulfil our mandate. But I also ask this House to continue supporting us along this way. We need all the help we can get, ladies and gentlemen.
Now that we have set forth the European Union's future tasks in the Berlin Declaration, there are several tasks which have to be dealt with between now and the June Council. I would now like to briefly outline them.
First of all, however, I would like to express my satisfaction that the considerable readiness to compromise on the part of all Member States has already made possible success in some issues. I believe it is good, particularly for the citizens of Europe, that we have been able to make some progress in practical everyday issues. It is good that you can now debate roaming tariffs in this House, that money transfers between European countries are simpler, that it has been possible with the help of the European Parliament to release funds for agriculture and that we have made some progress in the Open Skies Agreement, as it is known, that is to say in improving air traffic between Europe and America.
These are practical points by which people judge us, of course, and say: these are the issues you have to address. I am therefore delighted that we have been able to move these issues forward. I hope that we will make further concrete progress before the end of our Presidency.
Ahead of us lie three key summits which I would like to mention here. First of all, the EU‑USA summit on 30 April at which we want to intensify the transatlantic economic partnership. The progress made in the sphere of air traffic is a good omen. But, of course, we know that we could create a lot more synergy between Europe and the United States of America. I would like to sincerely thank the Commission, as well as those members of this House who have supported this. The issue of a transatlantic economic partnership has gained momentum. We are very confident that we really will achieve some tangible successes at this summit in late April.
Second, the issue of energy and climate protection will of course be on the agenda at this summit. We know that the European Union's ideas are far-reaching. We will try to canvass support for our ideas, so that they become global ideas. I am quite certain that emerging economies and developing countries will only join us if the industrialized countries set ambitious targets together. That is why we will canvass support for this. I deliberately say "canvass" because you all know that this is a mammoth task. We cannot promise too much at this stage.
We will also use the EU‑USA summit to prepare the G8 summit due to be held in Heiligendamm in June, even though they are not directly connected. The German G8 Presidency has arranged a meeting in early May which will be attended not only by the sherpas of the G8 countries but also those of the five outreach states, i.e. China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. The technological aspects of climate change are to be discussed at this meeting, particularly with a view to exchanging new technologies and innovations. This is intended to prepare the issues of climate protection and energy for the G8 summit.
Then there will be a summit between the European Union and Russia in May. Alongside the transatlantic partnership, the strategic partnership with Russia is absolutely crucial to us. I hope that we will be able to overcome the obstacles which are currently preventing us – or to be more precise the Commission – from engaging in negotiations. I would like to thank the Commission for working on this with incredible vigour and commitment, for the negotiations on a new partnership agreement are of course essential, particularly with regard to energy security and the energy partnership. I therefore believe that we should attach prime importance to these negotiations. The EU-Russia summit to be held in Samara in Russia is therefore of the greatest significance.
And there is also to be a summit between the European Union and Japan. This EU‑Japan summit should focus on improving our economic cooperation. I believe that people in Europe will largely judge all of us who represent Europe by whether during the coming decades we can continue to safeguard what has made Europe strong – a community of values, a community of people whose individual dignity is protected, which has brought people prosperity and social cohesion.
In my Berlin speech I said: "The world will not wait for Europe." We have a responsibility to contribute Europe's ideas to the world and to seek support for these ideas. We cannot do this by waiting to see how things develop, by isolating ourselves or by gazing at our own navels. Rather, we can only succeed if we actively seek to gain support for our own values and ideas.
Europe can only achieve this if it capable of taking action, if it is not preoccupied with itself all day and if it does not stand in its own way. That is why it is so important that we restore the European Union's capability to act as quickly as possible so that Europe can ensure what people in this European Union rightly expect, namely that they can look to a secure and free future. We are united in this aim.
Thank you for your attention.