José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
"Better Institutions for Better Results"
Brussels, 28 March 2007
Last weekend, the European past and the European future met in Berlin. As the Declaration states, we celebrated 50 years of achievement in Europe: peace, freedom and prosperity, beyond the dreams of even the most optimistic founding father of Europe. By one of those fortunate historical coincidences, we celebrated our unity in Berlin, the city that was the symbol of a divided Europe and is now the symbol of the new united Europe.
The celebrations in Berlin were an inspiring moment for Europe. I can speak for many who were there when I say that we all felt the "European spirit" among us. The Berlin Declaration proved worthy of the occasion, recommitting European Institutions and Member States to European values and European goals for the 21st Century.
I was delighted that the Declaration, a proposal made by the Commission, in May last year, became such a fitting centrepiece for the celebrations. I wish to congratulate Chancellor Merkel and the German Presidency for the crucial role they played in this great European success.
I was also very proud to see the three European Institutions signing the Declaration. The presence of the European Parliament is a sign of the democratic maturity of our Union, which deserves to be emphasised. I also praise the constructive role played by President Potering on behalf of the Parliament in the run-up to the Berlin Declaration.
Today, before this House, I would like to make two points. Let me start by emphasising the success of the twin track strategy. Taken together, the two European Councils in March were the twin track strategy in action. The Spring European Council demonstrated the commitment to deliver results in the areas of energy and the fight against climate change. The Berlin Declaration showed the commitment to agree on an institutional settlement before the European elections of 2009.
These successes prove that it is wrong to see a conflict between a "pragmatic approach" and "political vision". On the contrary, a "twin track strategy" is the right one. On the one hand, by delivering results we create the political momentum to settle the institutional problem. On the other hand, to deliver still better results, we need more efficient, democratic and coherent institutions. A Europe of results is a political vision based on constructive pragmatism: to address the concerns of our citizens, to provide European solutions for European problems.
We also need a treaty settlement because of the great global challenges that Europe faces in the coming years. Only together, in a more effective way, can the European Union tackle the challenges of the globalised world: a more competitive economic environment, energy security, terrorism and organised crime, climate change, mass migration and global poverty. We must equip the European Union for globalisation.
There is another reason that leads the Commission to strongly support a rapid, but also ambitious, institutional settlement. There is no doubt that the failure of the ratification process of the Constitutional treaty leaves a shadow of doubt over the European Union. It does not mean paralysis and there is no "crisis". But it limits the political will we can muster to move ahead. A settlement is the only clear way to defeat the spectre of division and the "imagined crisis".
Indeed, failure to agree an institutional settlement would cause divisions which would, in turn, threaten our common values. Think for a moment about European history and about all the tragedies that fell upon our continent. Fifty years is not much in European history. Nobody should take our achievements for granted. We need to permanently nurture our acquis.
If we are to preserve and protect our common values, namely the inviolable dignity of the individual, freedom, justice and solidarity, which make us a political Union and not just a market, we need to reform the institutions of our Community of law. The preservation of our common values is a permanent work in progress. Or what I call the unfinished European adventure.
In a nutshell, to have a better Europe, we need better institutions to deliver better results. I think the political will is there and now it is time to move to the next phase.
This is the second point I want to make today. I ask Member States to keep the momentum during the next months. I ask for the active cooperation of national governments. All Member States signed a treaty, which was not possible to ratify as a result of two negative popular votes. However, the commitment taken obliges all, and I repeat all, Member States to work in a constructive manner for a common solution. As President of the European Commission, it is my responsibility to demand national governments to make a special effort in the coming months.
Here, let me repeat one specific message that I sent to European heads of governments and states in Berlin. The message is about the collective ownership of our Union. The European Union is not a "foreign power" invading our countries; it is our common project. Europe is not "them", it is "us". It is tempting, but not honest, for national politicians to take all the credit and give "Brussels" all the blame. Let us resist that temptation. This is the ethic of European responsibility which all must share.
After Berlin, there is a political commitment to settle the institutional impasse. The Commission will fully support the German Presidency to reach, with other Member States, a clear and precise 'road-map' by June.
Let's not forget, as I repeated many times during the celebrations of the last weekend, that this is the kind of historical test that a generation of political leaders faces just once in their lifetime. I will conclude with the same appeal I made in Berlin. Let's work together, European Commission, European Parliament, Member States and European citizens, to take the great legacy we received from our founding fathers into the 21st century.