Indholdet på denne side vedrører regeringen Poul Nyrup Rasmussen IV (1998-2001)

Speech by the Prime Minister of Denmark Mr Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

Our Common Europe for the Future

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address you on the first day of our visit to your beautiful capital, Prague, in the heart of Europe.

I intend to focus my intervention on the future new Europe I would like to see.

Europe is a key issue for both the Czech Republic and Denmark. Being small nations, dependent on the outside world, we have much in common. We know the value of working together with other countries. And we face the same challenges. Allow me therefore to share with you my visions for tomorrow’s Europe.

We stand today on the threshold of creating a new and better Europe. Since the breakdown of the Berlin Wall and the upheavals in Central and Eastern Europe we have witnessed a transition process of historic dimensions on this continent. We now have the possibility of unifying Europe, which for more than half a century suffered from an artificial partition. This is a historic opportunity, which we must grab. And we must all make an effort to ensure that we will succeed.

Building a new and better Europe is the responsibility of present and future Members of the EU working together. I am under no illusion that this will be an easy task. The challenges are tremendous and numerous but not insurmountable.

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The EU has proven to be a great success. It has offered peace, stability and prosperity to its members. It has turned old age rivalry into friendship and partnership. And the EU has served as an efficient tool enabling Member States to find common solutions to common problems. This is why we need the EU. It is up to us – present and new Member States – to build on this long and fruitful tradition.

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The debate on the future of Europe, which was initiated in Nice last year, is important and fundamental. For me it is important that this debate not only focuses on institutional changes. Our focus should be on goals and substance rather than on theoretical institutional discussions, which are out of touch with the European reality. In my view we should start by asking: what are the future tasks we want our common Europe to handle? Only then we can pose the question: which institutions do we need, and what should they look like.

The new Europe I want to see is:

A whole Europe where the EU continues the enlargement process

An active Europe acting as a progressive driving force in globalisation,

A better Europe that deals with issues important to the citizens, and is more transparent, democratic and efficient.

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A whole Europe

The enlargement of the EU with the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe is our most important task at the beginning of the 21st Century. We are facing a historic window of opportunity to reunite our formerly divided continent and to create a stronger and more stable Europe. A European Union with more than twice as many members will be the best sign of solidarity we can send.

The perspective of enlargement should not only encompass the 12 countries with which the EU is presently negotiating. Every European nation that fulfils fundamental rights such as freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights can become members of the EU when they fulfil the economic and political criteria set out in Copenhagen in 1993.

The enlargement of the European Union is well on track. The present stage in the enlargement process has only been reached through political courage and foresight – both in the candidate countries and in the EU.

The transition from totalitarian regimes to democratic structures and market economies in the Central and Eastern European countries has not been easy. Reforms in almost every part of the societies have been necessary. The populations have met these great challenges with admirable courage and patience. There is no doubt that the prospect of EU membership has helped maintain momentum in the reform process. The collapse of the totalitarian regimes could have led to regional and ethnic tensions in Central and Eastern Europe. We have been witnessing violent conflicts in Balkan during the last decade and nobody can guarantee that unrest could not have happened in Central and Eastern Europe – had the new governments and parliaments not had a clear incentive to settle them in a peaceful manner. The prospect of EU membership provided this incentive. Thus, already at this stage the EU accession process itself has significantly contributed to enhancing security, stability and welfare in Europe.

The Czech Republic has undergone an impressive development over the last decade. Through ambitious reforms great progress has been achieved in preparing your country for membership of the EU. Soon the Czech Republic will be ready. I believe EU membership will provide the best possible conditions for enabling the Czech Republic as well as all other candidate countries to build up the modern welfare societies for which their populations have longed.

And I look forward to see you as an active partner during the next Intergovernmental Conference where we in practice shall decide our common Europe for the future.

During the last six months we have witnessed great progress in the accession negotiations. We have now entered a phase where difficult and sensitive issues must be solved. The will to compromise must be present both in candidate countries and Member States. I believe this to be the case. With the proper determination we will succeed.

The Summit in Gothenburg in June confirmed the ambition to finalise negotiations with the best-prepared candidate countries by the end of 2002. The Danish EU Presidency in the autumn 2002 will therefore be crucial. We are ready to take on this responsibility – in order to create a stable and unified Europe for the generations to come. To finalize the historical circle – from Copenhagen 1993 to Copenhagen 2002 – and welcome the first new members including the Czech Republic.

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Not only the enlargement of the EU is important for security and stability in Europe. This is evidently also the case for NATO enlargement. Our discussions at the informal NATO Summit in Brussels in June this year were very fruitful. I particularly welcome the fact that all 19 allies now agree that NATO will issue new invitations at the Prague Summit in November 2002 – during the Danish EU Presidency. I have notices with great pleasure the similar ambitions from the Czech Republic.

Denmark will work hard for an ambitious enlargement decision in Prague. We are of the firm opinion that NATO has a moral and political obligation to continue the enlargement process. The Alliance should be open for all European democracies that are willing and able to share the responsibilities that membership of NATO brings. History or geographical location should have no bearing on membership of the Alliance. The question of enlargement is up to the Alliance and aspiring countries alone. It is of the utmost importance – not least to the three Baltic Sates - that we adhere to these very fundamental principles.

We have to make sure that every European country understands NATO’s sincere and peaceful intentions. Wherever possible, co-operation and dialogue with non-NATO members should be further enhanced. NATO must be prepared to explore new areas of co-operation together with any European country – including Russia – that share our concern for the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic area.

NATO enlargement should be seen in parallel with the EU enlargement process. Countries with the perspective of EU membership should also be offered the option of being firmly anchored within the Alliance, if they so wish. This does not mean that EU and NATO enlargement are substitutes – there are no political trade-offs between the two. The EU and NATO enlargement processes are mutually reinforcing, creating vital synergy for all participating countries. In my view, it is therefore very symbolic and very logic that the NATO Summit in Prague will precede the EU Summit in Copenhagen with only three weeks. Denmark will make every effort to ensure that these three weeks next autumn will become a decisive leap forward for European integration. Let us unite our efforts to obtain a historical result in Prague.

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An active Europe

In my view an enlarged EU should take on a much greater global role. Already today the EU is an important progressive force at the global level. We should build on that.

Globalisation in today’s 21st Century is a fact of life. But many fear that the forces of globalisation may undermine our political, economical and social sense of security. Our individual countries are democratically led but there is a lack of real political democratic leadership at the global level. The challenges from globalisation can only be solved jointly with other countries. International challenges need international political answers.

For countries like Denmark and the Czech Republic global action demands a common platform where we work together with other countries. In most cases this platform is the EU. The EU is the only powerful and progressive platform available in our struggle for a global development with a human face.

To a large extent the EU is already today leading the way. This is true when it comes to international agreements on the environment. It goes for global and sustainable development.

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The leadership of the US in our NATO-alliance remains fundamental for our security in Europe. The transatlantic partnership is of lasting importance. We foresee close links between the EU and the United States in crisis management and conflict preventions in the future.

It is of great importance that we remember what the US said on the Balkan: “We went in together, we stay together and go out together”.

But at the same time it is important to realize that the increasing role of the EU on the international scene will also touch upon questions were we are not in agreement. This goes for regulating the market forces, the road towards sustainable development and global environmental issues.

Let us be clear: The EU is in reality the only efficient platform in the struggle for global human development and ensuring a human face of the global economic market forces.

We saw this in the effort and success of the EU in ensuring a global compromise on the Kyoto-protocol, but not with US-participation.

We will remain and develop the dialogue with the United States in a framework of international agreements. Even if there is actual disagreement between the US and Europe, we must continue to future democratic decided rules and regulations for the international order. Necessary to the peoples ordinary life all over the world.

This goes for security, this goes for environment, this goes for workers’ fundamental rights, this goes for international trade and solidarity with the 3rd. world.

We look forward to a continuation of the close and fruitful dialogue – even if we disagree. After all we have a common future and responsibility.

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Seen from a global perspective the countries of Europe have a lot in common. We are all concerned about the environment. We agree that the richer countries have a global responsibility that also includes development assistance in for example Africa. And we agree that our welfare societies are here to stay and that economic development should be managed in such a way that it benefits everybody – not only the few. We have set ourselves a common goal: The EU should become the most competitive, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable economy in the World within the next ten years. This is a very good platform for a stronger role at the global level.

We should seize this opportunity. The EU must take the lead when it comes to peace and stability, human rights, economic co-operation, development assistance, trade and the environment. Leadership must be shown within the framework of the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, multinational negotiations on the environment, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The EU must lead the way in favour of sustainable development and a “Global Deal” between the Northern and Southern hemisphere. Such a deal should be concluded in September next year at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. A deal where we commit ourselves to market access and development aid and developing countries commit themselves to international environmental objectives.

We must also strengthen the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. A wide range of common economic, political and military instruments are at our disposal. I hope that the EU will be willing to engage itself in resolving conflicts to an even greater extent than today and strengthen also its civilian capacities in conflict and crisis management.

That is the kind of EU I would like to see participating on the international stage. I think that is a realistic vision. But it requires the necessary political will. In the Czech Republic. In Denmark. And in the other Member States.

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A better Europe

Working towards more solidarity among the countries in the new Europe is one thing. Improving the democratic legitimacy of the EU is another. The EU is the citizens’ Europe. Therefore the EU must focus on those tasks the citizens want the EU to deal with.

There is a need for a stronger EU in a number of areas. But it is also important that the rules and regulations of the EU do not become unnecessary detailed.

In my view the tasks of the EU can be summarised under ten headings:

As I have already mentioned the EU must play a greater role on the global scene. Both when it comes to peace and stability, human rights and when it comes to economic co-operation, development assistance, trade or the environment.

In the new enlarged EU there will be a widespread need for co-ordinating economic policies. This will be a pre-condition for strengthening the employment cooperation and maintaining and further developing our welfare societies.

The EU must be bound together by common environmental provisions and environmental ambitions.

The common consumer policy of the EU must be made more efficient and contribute to a high level of protection based on the precautionary principle.

We need common EU provisions in the fight against unfair tax competition, which undermines the financing of our welfare societies. Denmark will be working for common rules not only with regard to the taxation base and minimum rates on indirect taxes but also with regard to taxation of interest rates, corporation tax and environmental taxes that have influence on competition.

The EU must be issued with the necessary instruments in order to conclude and enforce the Internal Market, ensure an efficient competition policy, dismantle monopolies and cartels and combat state aid of an anti-competitive nature.

The EU must develop a common asylum and immigration policy in the years to come and ensure an effective effort against the trafficking in human beings, illegal immigration and fraud with regard to asylum.

The EU must be the framework for an effective European co-operation in the fight against cross-border crime.

The EU should continue to have a common agricultural policy. But there is a need for fundamentally reforming the existing agricultural policy. EU should focus on producing healthy foodstuffs. The EU should also continue to have a common fisheries policy. And the EU’s structural and cohesion policies should be focussed on the new Member States.

The EU should not be given new competencies when it comes to educational

policy and employment policy. We should instead rely on sharing our experiences in these areas. How we organise and finance our health care systems, the care for the elderly and children are questions that must continue to be handled nationally. Neither should legislation on cultural or leisure activities be subject to EU regulation but areas in which we can find mutual inspiration. Each Member State should be able to pursue its own policy with regard to distribution of income and maintain or improve social welfare benefits.

This outline of areas of co-operation and common action reflects what I believe our citizens expect from the EU.

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A more transparent, democratic and efficient EU

The question that we are all asking ourselves is how we can make the enlarged EU work without jeopardising its ability to act efficiently in the interest of its citizens and being a progressive power on the world stage. Much has already been said. Many ideas have been presented.

I am convinced that we can make a EU of 30 or more Member States work. But we can only fulfil this goal if we are prepared to think in a new and different way. There are many conflicting interests at stake and everybody must be prepared to compromise.

For me the answer to the new Europe is not creating a United States of Europe. Nor is it to roll back the EU to a traditional co-operation among independent nations. The EU has always been a unique construction. It is not a traditional international intergovernmental organisation. And it is not a state. The EU is both a community of states and a community of peoples.

In my view the nation states will continue to be the corner stone in the new Europe. I see no need for fundamentally changing the existing institutional structures in the EU.

I feel this is in accordance with most of the new applicant countries. You have – a few years ago – left a “federal” system. “I could imagine that you do not want to join a new one.

But this is not to say that we should only rely on a co-operation among nation states. There is a need for common institutions. Not for the sake of the institutions. But because efficient and common institutions create a level playing field between smaller and larger Member States and is a safeguard mechanisms against the negative consequences of globalisation.

Rather than theoretical discussions we should concentrate our efforts on making the EU we know today more efficient, transparent and democratic.

Firstly, there is a need for making the decisions and institutions more efficient. In an enlarged EU it will be necessary with more decision making by qualified majority voting. Otherwise we risk paralysing the EU. Decisions should be based on minimum standards rather than total harmonisation. Environmental issues and certain aspects of taxation are areas where I would like to see more decision making by qualified majority.

In the longer term there could also be a need for sharing the EU Presidencies among a group of Member States.

Secondly, we need to find a way forward that ensures respect for the principle of subsidiarity. Within the EU we should work together on issues that we cannot handle on our own. But we need a political mechanism as a safeguard against superfluous and too detailed regulation from the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the Commission.

For me it seems natural to make use of our own national parliaments. EU is a union of individual states and the highest national authority – the parliament –plays a natural role in relation to EU. National parliaments are also closer to the citizens and therefore well placed to ensure that EU decisions reflect the wishes of the people.

Therefore, I think that the time has come to strengthen the co-operation between the national parliaments of the Member States. We already have COSAC. But we could go a step further and establish an assembly of national parliamentarians with equal representation from each Member State.

Secondly, it is important for popular support of any Government institution that the population understands and can follow the decision making process. This is all the more true when it comes to international institutions. That requires transparency in the work of the Council and the Commission. And our work of continuously ensuring more transparency and openness in the EU is of course of utmost importance.

I also see merits in simplifying the Treaties with a view to making them clearer and better understood. In an interview to a Danish newspaper earlier this year President Havel stated this point forcefully:

“A year ago I asked my associates to provide me with the documents that define the political mechanisms of the EU. They brought me a whole suitcase full of treaties, annexes, protocols and supplements. I quickly realised that this was not written with a view to be understood by an ordinary primary school boy.”

Besides simplifying the Treaty, we should create a new Basic Treaty with the same legal status as the present Treaties. Not a constitution with a more far- reaching effect in relation to the national constitutions. Such a Basic Treaty should have the following elements:

A clear description of our common values in a world, which needs clear signals from Europe. The Charter on fundamental rights should be part of this.

A clear description of the principles of division of labour between the EU level and the individual Member States. This division of labour should be based on the principle of subsidiarity and the new tasks for the national parliaments.

A clear description of the decision making within EU and the institutional balances, which should be maintained.

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Let me conclude by repeating that our discussions on the future of Europe should not only focus on the institutional aspects. Let us instead begin by discussing the contents of the future EU. What is it we want from Europe? Having answered that question it is natural to look closer at the institutional issues. Anything else would be putting the cart in front of the horse.

The EU has proven its value. From the very beginning close economic co-operation served a political objective: To turn strife and struggle and mutual destruction into peace, stability and prosperity.

With the enlargement of EU and NATO we are continuing our struggle to reach this common goal. We have been given the opportunity to make Europe a richer, safer and better place to live for citizens of Europe. And as a progressive force at the global level we can work to make this planet a better place for everybody.

As a final note let me quote Nelson Mandela, who at the turn of the Century said:

“We also need a globalisation of responsibility. That is the main challenge of this Century”.

That is the responsibility our new common Europe should be ready to handle.