José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
"Debate on the informal Council in Lisbon"
Strasbourg, 23 October 2007
Dear President Hans-Gert Pottering
Caro Primeiro Ministro Jose Socrates
Honourable Members of the European Parliament
The Informal European Council in Lisbon was the Council of a unified European Union. We overcame a period of six years discussing institutional issues and put our divisions behind us. We now have the Treaty of Lisbon, which will be signed on the 13th of December. I wish to pay tribute and applaud the work of the Portuguese Presidency, in particular the leadership of the Portuguese Prime Minister.
At this special moment, I also wish to express my gratitude to the German Presidency, who so skilfully steered the mandate that led to the Lisbon Treaty.
Let me also salute the European Parliament for your commitment during the IGC. Throughout this process, the European Parliament showed a strong political will to resolve the institutional issue, while being determined to reinforce European democracy. The collaboration between the Parliament and the Commission was exemplary and contributed to some of the most important advances of the new Treaty.
The Treaty of Lisbon is the Treaty of a large Europe. It is the first time in the history of European integration that states, which were once divided by a totalitarian curtain, together negotiate and reach an agreement on a common European Treaty. It is appropriate to remind us all today that our journey started precisely with the Berlin Declaration, which celebrated not only the fiftieth anniversary of the Rome Treaty but also the emergence of a free and reunited Europe.
Let me recall today some of the predictions we have heard during the last two years. In 2005, after the negative referenda, we heard people saying that a European Union of 25 and then 27 would never agree on a Treaty, whatever its content. There were far too many different national interests to allow the Union to reach a consensus.
In 2007, critics said that Member States would never agree on a mandate.
Then, they said that the mandate from the June European Council would never be respected.
On my way to Lisbon, last week, I still heard some saying that it would be very, very difficult to reach an agreement and that delegations had even booked hotels until Sunday morning.
Well, the fact is that 27 Member States reached a consensus, respected a mandate and agreed on a Treaty. And all of this on Thursday night after dinner.
The success of Lisbon tells us that the European Union is much tougher than it looks, with a strong ability to recover from setbacks. Today, the European Union is alive and delivering.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members of this House,
The Commission is very happy with the results of the IGC. First, the "two non-negotiable conditions" set by the Commission were fully respected. On the one hand, the Lisbon Treaty has clearly advanced from the current status quo. I always said that the Commission could not accept a solution less ambitious that the Nice Treaty. In fact, we wanted as much progress as possible. On the other hand, we fought hard to keep the competences of the Commission intact. And there were certain attempts to reduce and to weaken those competences. Let me be clear: there is no European integration without strong European Institutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members,
The Treaty of Lisbon will reinforce the democratic nature of the European Union. First, thanks to the efforts of the European Parliament, there is now a clear definition of what European citizenship means.
Second, The Reform Treaty also gives legal force to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will be a central part of the system of checks and balances in our Union of law. Together with President Pottering and Prime Minister Socrates, we will proclaim the Charter before the signature of the Reform Treaty. The solemn dignity of the Charter will thus be properly recognised, here in this Parliament.
Third, the European Parliament will have a greater role in the legislative process of the Union.
The fourth democratic advance introduced by the Reform Treaty regards the rights of national parliaments, which will reinforce the principles of accountability and subsidiarity.
But the central feature of the democratic nature of the Union remains the European Parliament. One of the things that I most enjoy when I am in Strasbourg is to listen to all those political leaders and public figures, from all over the world, addressing this plenary on their aspirations to democracy and their strong beliefs in freedom and in individual rights. This is really one of the vocations of the European Parliament: a house for the voices of freedom in this world. And I think it is something that should make all Europeans proud. When we hear those voices, we also realize what we have achieved in Europe. Because once we also had people in European cities marching for the same rights. We should be very proud to live in a continent where all enjoy fundamental rights. And we will say it, together, when we approve the Reform Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
adies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members,
The European Union faces many challenges, both internal and external, and our citizens want results. The Treaty of Lisbon will turn a new page in our ability to deliver and will reinforce our capacity to act. In particular, the Treaty will introduce substantial advances in the area of justice and home affairs.
The Reform Treaty will also reinforce the Union's cohesion in external affairs. Our internal prosperity, our freedom, and our security depend on the capacity of the European Union to act decisively at the global level. With the Reform Treaty, Europe will have the conditions and the instruments to shape globalization. We cannot miss this opportunity.
I know that some committed Europeans are not happy with the number of opt-outs. Myself and the Commission, we would also have preferred to avoid them. However, diversity is a central feature of the European Union and sometimes it requires political and institutional compromises. I prefer to have specific opt-outs for specific countries than to be forced to lower the level of overall ambition of the Treaty. The crucial point is that, despite our diversity, we remain united regarding fundamental goals, fundamental values and fundamental principles.
We have now many tasks ahead. Economic reform, growth and jobs, the reinforcement of social justice, our focus on innovation, our package on energy and climate change, our programme for justice, freedom and security. We need to keep proving that we are not engaged in institutional navel-gazing, and show that we are dealing with the real issues facing Europe.
In this regard, in Lisbon, we also discussed the great issue for the European Union of the 21st Century: to promote the European interest in the age of globalization. Our discussion was the natural complement to concluding the Reform Treaty. We had a very positive debate, the paper presented by the Commission, based on the concept of "European Interest", was fully endorsed, and it was decided to work on a "Declaration on Globalization" for the December European Council, to show that tackling globalization is a common thread in much of European Union's work today. The Heads of State and Government welcomed the concept of 5th freedom: freedom of circulation of researchers and ideas, a cornerstone of our response to globalization. This is particularly important as we are engaged in crucial debates about Galileo and prepare to implement the European Institute of Technology.
As this Commission has argued all along: institutional reform and delivery of results, side-by-side. As the Commission said in 2006, the twin-track approach as the way out for the institutional stalemate.
In Lisbon, we achieved a strategic objective: we all agreed on a Reform Treaty. Now, it is crucially important to achieve a further goal: the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty before the European elections of 2009. I believe there is indeed a new political confidence in Europe. The last polls demonstrate the highest support for the Union since 1994. The political climate is right to move ahead.
The IGC and the Lisbon Informal Council demonstrated that when European Institutions and Member States cooperate, we are able to solve even what seem to be the most complicated problems. I wish that the spirit of Lisbon, which brought us a consensus on a new Treaty, will inspire the European Union in the year to come towards a successful ratification process. We need it for a strong Union that delivers results for citizens.