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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Closing speech following the State of the Union debate
Strasbourg, 28 September 2011
Thank you Mr President,
First of all let me start by thanking this House for the strong support given to my statement on behalf of the European Commission. I think it is very important for all of us in the European Commission to feel that support coming from the most important political forces in Europe and for you that have been directly elected by our European citizens.
Of course I was not expecting unanimity. One Member of the Parliament, a British nationalist, attacked me on the fact that I am not elected. I want to tell you that since I was 29 years I have been always elected by my own Parliament. And afterwards I have been the Prime Minister of my country, I have been the leader of the opposition of my country and I am here as the President of the Commission because this Parliament has voted for me to be the President of the European Commission.
And if you do not respect the institution to which you belong yourself this is not my problem. And regarding Britain I would like to make this point to you: as far as I know there have been several times tries to be elected for your own British Parliament, how wise, are the British people that have never elected you and sent you exactly here. Precisely because if you want your country to leave the European Union say it in London, try to get it in your country but it is not here because so far as we know your institutions, your country wants to remain in the European Union.
And if your country does not want to be in the European Union do not speak on behalf of the others, do not speak on behalf of Poland that just today said their commitment to the community approach and to stronger and ever close European Union.
If Britain believes that it can, because of the past empire or because of its dimension, defend its interest in the world alone: try to get that point across in your country. But I think that the majority here believes as was said that to protect our interest, to defend our values in the world of globalisation, to speak with one voice with our American friends or with China and Russia we need a stronger European Union, and this stronger European Union is the way to reinforce also our countries, the countries we represent around this house.
This point is very important. This is a point of substance apart from the other more funny part. It is a point of substance: how we build the European Union? Are we going to build the European Union against each other or with each other?
How we build the European Union? Are we going to build the European Union against each other or with each other? That is why I welcome this message of support from the most important political forces here and the consensus expressed. I also welcome the message of support coming from the current Presidency of the Council - from Poland. Because we need a community method, a community spirit, a community approach to reinforce our common interest. We need to build the European Union with our Member States, but we also need to build the European Union based on the "rassemblement" of all the major pro-Europeans. The most important political forces of Europe and yes, I agree with you Andrew Duff that we need probably to reform also some of our European political parties so that we can also have an expression collectively, in the European public space, of this European democracy.
That is why I really believe that some difficulties that were expressed here or there - some of you said today "Yes but". Please, among pro-Europeans, don't say the "but", say just "yes". You don't say to your loved one's, your wife or your girlfriend, your husband or your boyfriend, you don't say "I love you but". You say "I love you, I support you" and we need your support to make Europe stronger.
Because the real problem of Europe is, as I also said, is a problem of confidence and let's be completely clear – the problems we have in Europe today do not come because of the European institutions. The problems that we have in Europe today come because of narrow national interests that have avoided the European project to go forward.
So I say to those of you that criticise me or the Commission - we are ready to accept all your criticisms, but the Commission is proud of the work it has achieved. We have not only today made a speech; we have put forward a programme with proposals. Everything I said last year in the European State of the Union, I checked – we have delivered. Every proposal I made today to you we will deliver and we need your support and not your doubts and your scepticism. That is very important today, because we need to build this stronger support for a stronger Europe in a spirit of confidence.
Today we are going to vote the Six Pack, some of you don't agree, but the proposals were made by the European Commission one year ago. We have tabled 29 proposals for the financial regulation. Some of the points you have made, they are already on your table and on the table of the Council. About the capital of banks, we have put forward a Capital requirements directive, some of you don't agree, but our proposal is there. About the tax evasion, we have asked the Council, and so far we have not yet received a mandate to negotiate with third countries the issues of taxation, because what is happening so far is that the countries are negotiating alone. We have put forward the tax saving directive.
Regarding the public services I have committed to present it until the end of the year and we will do it. We are going to respect all our commitments and today I put forward before you also the financial transaction tax.
And so when we speak about Europe we have to be clear what we mean by Europe. Because this is one of the problems in terms of the scepticism in Europe. Some people say Europe does not deliver. Let's put it frankly – is this Europe that does not deliver, or some governments that do not deliver? This is the real question in terms of the European Union.
As I said, one of the problems is political and political confidence. And we need to make the case for Europe. Today when some governments say "We do not have enough support for the euro. We do not have some support for the European Union". Probably they are right, but we have to ask them "Did you make the case for Europe? Did you make the case for the euro? Did you explain to your citizens what we have to lose if we do not keep our strong commitment to our common achievements?" So we need to make the case for Europe. And this is a collective task – from the European Commission, of course, from the Parliament. (You have been elected and you can, of course, discuss this matter, and I know you are doing this with your electors), but also from our governments. We need to make the case for a stronger Europe. That is why I highlighted the importance of the political leadership, the political responsibility. I believe that we can unite us in terms of the points I have made.
The reality is, Honourable Members, that we have different sensibilities around Europe. We have those who like to highlight stability, others prefer to speak about growth, those who prefer to insist on responsibility and discipline, others want to insist on solidarity and cohesion. We need all these ideas. We need to put together this vision of a common Europe and the points I have made today to you (and once gain, I want to thank you for all your support) are not only points of a speech, they are points of a commitment programme. So let's work together to make it happen. Let's work together to make Europe stronger. Let's work together in a true Community spirit, with a respect of the Community mater to deliver for our citizens a stronger, united and open Europe. I believe this is what we need in Europe and what the world needs from us.
I thank you for your attention.