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I have been asked to speak here today on the Danish EU Presidency and the decision on EU enlargement.
Although this is a topic of very great importance, I believe that we all are in a situation where our minds and thoughts are dominated by the war in Iraq.
In these circumstances it is difficult to move focus from the present situation and look back. Even on recent and important events such as the decisions made at the EU Summit here in Copenhagen in December last year.
In this perspective I will address the situation in Iraq at the end of my speech here today.
First, I will turn to the main topic for my presentation – the enlargement.
The decision on the enlargement of the EU in Copenhagen marked a turning point. I believe that everybody present at the Summit felt that they were witnessing an historic moment.
The Summit stands as a symbol of the end of the Cold War era. And as a sign of the beginning of a new phase in European history.
We crowned an almost ten year long process of enlargement with a successful result. At the same time we established the framework for European integration in the next decades.
It is no exaggeration to talk about the European Union before and after the decision in Copenhagen on the enlargement.
In my presentation here today, I will reflect on the process leading up to the Copenhagen Summit. And I will look forward upon the consequences of the enlargement decision and the challenges facing us in the coming years.
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Enlargement was the main priority of the Danish EU Presidency. We were given an historic task.
Our goal was very clearly defined. We wished to finalise negotiations with up to ten new Member States. At the same time we intended to create the greatest possible progress with regard to the Candidate Countries not yet ready for membership.
The Danish Presidency did not start from scratch. We worked on the basis of the substantial results reached through years of negotiations. But the most difficult problems were still unsolved. This was the case not least regarding the question of the price of the enlargement.
This was quite natural. The question of who is going to pay the bill is normally left until the final negotiations. That is the rule of the game.
We had a clear strategy. It was reflected in the timing of the summit meetings. The first phase covered the period from the beginning of the Presidency on the 1st of July to the first meeting in the European Council which took place in Brussels on the 24th and 25th of October.
It was our intention to solve as many technical questions as possible before the meeting in Brussels. To a very high extent we fulfilled this ambition.
Therefore, we could concentrate the discussions at the Brussels Summit on the outstanding financial questions. We made three key decisions: · First, we reached agreement on the level for a total amount for the structural fund efforts in the new Member States. · Second, we decided on a model for the phasing-in of the Candidate Countries in the system of direct payments in the agricultural sector. · Third, we solved the question of budgetary compensation. We established that no new Member State might have the experience of being in a poorer position during the period from 2004 to 2006 than it was in 2003.
The Brussels Summit was a decisive moment in the process. We succeeded in creating a sound basis for the last round of negotiations with the Candidate Countries. This was made possible by the constructive approach taken by our partners – especially Germany and France.
In the following seven weeks the Presidency negotiated intensively with the Candidates – in close co-operation with the Commission. Our goal was to find solutions acceptable to both Candidates and present Member States.
Much was achieved during these weeks. But the final decisive questions were left for the Copenhagen Summit. It had to be like that. This was the only way to ensure the right balance between the wishes of the Candidate Countries and what the present Member States considered feasible.
We reached an agreement after more than 24 hours of difficult and complicated negotiations. All the Candidate Countries wanted to obtain as good a deal as possible. A quite natural wish. But in the evening of the 13th of December, I could conclude that we were able to finalise negotiations with ten new Member States: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
We also agreed on Bulgaria and Romania. The enlargement process will continue. We confirmed that the goal is to be able to welcome the two countries as members in 2007.
The question of Turkey became a key issue in Copenhagen. We arrived at a balanced and realistic statement. If the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfils Copenhagen political criteria, the European Union will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay. The decisions on enlargement in Copenhagen were historic. They were only possible because of the will and commitment of all involved. We shared a vision. And we had the will to let action follow words. It was Europe at its best.
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The Summit in Copenhagen marked the end of the Cold War. We left the Europe of the 20th Century and entered the new Europe of the 21st Century.
Turning towards this future and the challenges we are facing, I will first of all stress the immense potential we have.
The enlarged European Union of the future with half a billion citizens will be the greatest economic power of the world. And it will have a huge potential for growth.
The integration of the countries and economies of Central and Eastern Europe into the EU and the Internal Market present us with an outstanding possibility to create a new Europe characterised by freedom, peace, growth and prosperity. We are all to gain in this process.
But we will only be able to take full advantage of these opportunities if we have the political will to continued reform and change.
A first test of crucial importance is the referenda in the new Member States. I welcome the result of the referendum on Malta and the referendum in Slovenia yesterday. And look forward to the coming referenda in the other countries with great interest.
But the challenge facing us goes further than that. The present Member States have to deliver as well. A few days ago - Thursday and Friday last week – the European Council met in Brussels. On our agenda we had the Lisbon process and the discussions on how to make Europe the most competitive economy in the world.
Reforms of our economies, strengthening of our competitiveness and structural reforms are necessary if Europe shall be able to compete on the global markets in the future.
The liberalisation of our markets must continue. A significant step in the right direction was taken during the Danish Presidency, when we decided to liberalise the markets for electricity and gas. In this context, I also welcome the recent agreement on the Community Patent. It is another step in the right direction.
In the coming years we will have to reform the common agricultural policy and make it more market oriented.
We must strengthen our competitiveness by continued reform of our social structures and economies. We must create the best possible framework for the individual energy, enterprise and dynamism that will be the driving force in the society of the future. This is the prerequisite for a continued development of our welfare societies.
A strong and dynamic economy is of paramount importance and the Union must continue to pursue this goal. But our Union is about much more than money. It is also a community of values and a framework for cooperation in a number of areas of cross-border nature. The new Member States will expect the European Union to be strong and effective in these areas as well.
This is the case with regard to justice and home affairs. The number of refugees seeking asylum in Europe, increased cross-border crime, and terrorism have enhanced the need to secure Europe as an area of freedom, security and justice.
We must create a stronger and more efficient framework for cooperation concerning refugees and immigrants, illegal immigration, combating international crime, and for cooperation among police and prosecution authorities.
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These and other tasks are questions up for debate in the Convention on the future of the EU.
This is a very important process. The enlargement must not lead to a dilution of the EU. We need a strong, dynamic Union able to deliver in areas where we can only solve problems together. The task of the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference which will follow the work of the Convention is to carry through the necessary reforms of the structure of the Union.
I am pleased that there is broad political agreement on the Danish positions on the issues up for debate. On the 14th of March the Government, the Social Democrats and the Social Liberal Party presented a joint position paper on the Convention.
There is a strong political commitment in Denmark to the enlargement. It is important that we maintain the broadest possible agreement now when we are entering the debate on how to make the enlargement a success.
At the core of the debate are the institutional questions. I would like to take the opportunity here today to state my views on the central institutional questions.
I believe that our general approach should be based on three principles, which seem to meet with broad acceptance.
Firstly, whatever the final result turns out to be, it must respect the balance between large and small countries. If attempts are made to upset this balance, there is a risk that the EU will fall apart.
Secondly, the balance between the three key institutions – the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council – must be preserved. We must maintain a system of checks and balances between the institutions.
And thirdly, the solution must be effective and transparent. The solution we arrive at must be both workable and comprehensible.
Basically, I see two possible results of the negotiations. Either we strengthen all three central institutions – the Parliament, the Commission and the Council. Or we retain the status quo. In any event, I do not believe it is realistic only to strengthen one or two of the institutions. If they are to be strengthened, we must strengthen them all.
First: the European Parliament.
I believe we should enlarge the area where decisions are taken not only by the Council, but by the Council and the Parliament together, the so-called co-decision procedure.
As a point of departure we should extend the co-decision procedure to all areas where the Council takes decisions on legislative issues by qualified majority. This would mean, first and foremost, that the influence of the European Parliament on agricultural policy would be greatly enhanced.
Next, the Commission. We must have a strong Commission. It must be able to act with authority in those areas in which it is assigned a decisive role. This applies, for example, to such matters as the internal market, trade policy, competition policy and state aid. In such areas it is important to have a strong arbitrator who will not be governed by narrow and short-sighted national interests.
We welcome a strengthening of the Commission by, for example, introducing a new procedure for the election of the Commission President. However, once again, it is important that this procedure ensures the right balance between large and small countries. It is also important to ensure the Commission’s independence in relation to the other institutions. Such concerns will not be taken sufficiently into account if the Commission President is to be elected exclusively by the European Parliament.
My alternative proposal is that the election should take place in an electoral college consisting of a limited number of members representing national parliaments and the European Parliament, respectively.
An appropriate composition for this electoral college could be half national parliamentarians, half members of the European Parliament. The right to nominate must rest with Member States’ Governments. Each candidate must be nominated by a pre-determined number of countries – five for example.
Following the election in the electoral college, the appointment must be confirmed by qualified majority in the European Council. This procedure will ensure that a new Commission President enjoys the confidence of all Member States.
Such an electoral procedure will provide future Commission Presidents with a very strong mandate indeed. I can see a two-fold advantage. It will enhance the influence of national parliaments. And it will maintain the Commission’s independence of the Council and the Parliament. After the Parliament and the Commission, I will now turn to the Council. Here, I see two possible lines of approach.
Firstly, we may continue using the existing model with rotating, biannual national Presidencies. Experience shows that this system can achieve considerable results.
But, with 25 or more members, can we continue this way?
A concrete method of reforming the rotating, biannual Presidency could be to continue the national Presidency system but to confine it to the political levels. This would mean that the great majority of technical committees and working groups could be chaired by the Council Secretariat or by individual members of the committees elected by their peers. We are also ready to consider how we can strengthen the coordination between two or more Presidencies.
Denmark can support a continuation and further development of rotating Presidencies. Its main advantage is that large and small countries are given equal status.
At the same time, however, we must have the courage to ask ourselves if such minor changes in the present system are sufficient to meet the challenges we could find ourselves facing in the future. Will we then have to change the structure again in a few years’ time?
It is for this reason that I have signalled a positive Danish interest in examining a model based on an elected President of The European Council.
This is - in my view – the second realistic approach and worthy of consideration in respect of the future organisation of the Council.
So how would it work?
An elected President of the European Council would be appointed for a term of 2 -5 years. Such an elected President would be charged with the task of preparing and chairing the meetings of the European Council and, in addition, being the high-level, external representative of the Union.
This system, with an elected President, would be combined with a system of changing national Presidencies of the sector Councils. And here we can use the existing model of a rotating, biannual, single-country Presidency. The Prime Minister of the country holding the rotating Presidency can then also act as deputy President of The European Council.
We would then have a permanent, elected President with a fixed term of office and a Deputy President, changing every six months.
Whatever the model the principle of equality between larger and smaller Member States must be respected. And there must be a very clear definition of the division of competences and responsibilities between the main players. An elected President shall have a clear job description.
Personally, I think that there are two main elements to consider. Both of them important.
Firstly, we need some sort of firm assurance that large and small countries are genuinely provided with an equal opportunity to have one of their nationals elected as President of the European Council. And each Member State should have one vote in such a process – regardless of its size. I have suggested that a possible element in such a construction could be the creation of three “electoral groups” comprising large, medium and small countries. The position of President of the European Council would then be held in turns by these electoral groups. Thus ensuring equal representation between large, medium-sized and small countries.
However, it would not only be the electoral group in question which itself nominates the President. All Member States would participate in the election. And all countries would have the right to nominate or recommend candidates. But candidates would have to come from the electoral group whose turn it would be to stand for the position of President of the European Council.
Secondly, if we are to accept the idea of an elected President, it should be made clear that we are talking about a person with clearly defined powers. I do not envisage a figure with the kind of presidential powers we know from various nation states around the world. This would be neither realistic nor desirable. What I see is more of a “chairman” than a “president”. A practical person with a real job to do. Not a symbolic figurehead. A chairman who can make sure that the European Council always functions at its best, who can create continuity and be a high-level, external representative for the European Union.
* * *
Let me finally turn to the question of Iraq.
The position of Denmark has been clear. A line had to be drawn. For more than 12 years Saddam Hussein has been playing games with the international community. And despite resolution 1441 he continued. We had to say: enough is enough.
Denmark maintains that existing and still valid, UN resolutions provide legal basis for disarming Iraq by force, which we see as the only credible option at this point. And we have acted accordingly.
We support the US-led coalition. And we have made our contribution to the coalition with naval assets. This has been no easy decision for my government. Resistance has been strong, in Parliament and in public opinion. But it is the right decision.
Others have taken a different approach. It has been clear for all to observe that we have experienced serious disagreements among the EU Member States on Iraq.
The scope of these disagreements should not be played down in a matter of such seriousness.
But neither should they be blown out of proportions. We are definitely not witnessing the end of our Common Foreign and Security Policy. We on our part are certainly not in the business of weakening the CFSP.
If any conclusion can be drawn from recent events it is that the Common Foreign and Security policy must be based on present day facts and realities and not on dreams of a distant future.
We do not have a “single” European foreign policy. We have a “common” policy to the extent possible. And this extent is defined by the Member States and their national interests. This is especially true for the large Member States with global interests.
So our starting point must therefore be that the foreign, security and defence policies of the EU continue to be based on co-operation among the Member States. The so-called intergovernmental co-operation, firmly anchored in the Council.
But, within this framework of intergovernmental co-operation, we should strive to make foreign, security and defence policies as common as possible.
And why? Because it is in the interest of us all that the EU develops a military capacity capable of carrying out peace-keeping and humanitarian tasks on the European continent. The Western Balkans are a prime example. And it would indeed strengthen European influence on the international scene if we were able to achieve a common position.
So while accepting that we may not always speak with one voice, we have a vested interest in giving the EU’s foreign policy coordinator as strong a position as possible. Today, we have a so-called High Representative, anchored in the Council. At the same time, we have a commissioner who is responsible for external affairs. Perhaps we should merge the two posts into one - having one single foreign policy representative. As foreign policy will remain a primarily intergovernmental matter, I think it only logical that the EU foreign policy representative should be anchored in the Council.
This is not a question of strengthening the EU at the expense of transatlantic co-operation. Quite the contrary. We have a vital interest in close and strong co-operation between Europe and the USA. But, at present, the Western world is faced with challenges that make it necessary for Europe to stand on its own feet and make its own contribution. This is not only in our interests, but also in the interest of the USA.
Strong transatlantic relations are vital to Europe. We must not fall into a trap of trying to build a strong Europe as a competitor to the US. We should build a strong Europe which is a reliable and solid partner for the US allowing us to meet the many important challenges together.
Twice during the last hundred years America has brought peace and freedom to Europe. And even today young American soldiers are ensuring peace in the Balkans. This is our history. This is our present reality.
The situation in Iraq is not the first time in the history of European integration we have disagreed. And it will not be the last. The answer to disagreement in the past has been to continue the hard day to day work on the European project. And this is also the way to go ahead in the present situation.
We shall look forward. Many tasks must be solved by the EU. The strength and vision of the European project will prevail.