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WHAT NOW FOR EUROPE?

Dr.Laima Andrikiene, MEP (EPP-ED)
Vilnius International Club
Vilnius, June 16, 2005

Thank you, Madame Chair.

What I discovered, unfortunately, too late, is that our discussion of today might be a very risky business for me: four diplomats and one politician, and usually diplomats speak very diplomatically, so I could imagine what expectations you have. But first of all I would like to thank Aage Myhre, other organizers of this event for inviting me to speak here today. It is a pleasure to discuss future of Europe in this distinguished company. I participate in this discussion as MEP, and all I am going to say today is my own position, my personal evaluation of the situation.

Now back to our topic we discuss today: Europe is at the cross roads as it has been on several occasions in the past.

The context, evaluation of the situation:

            1) Biggest ever enlargement of the EU happened in 2004, just one year ago, old EU member states have to meet the costs of this enlargement;

            2) In relation to this enlargement we face the necessity of the Constitutional Treaty to be ratified by all member states and the EP; the process of ratification should be finished before November 2006;

            3) Expectations of the new member states are still high: they expect cohesion, solidarity to be de facto EU policies, not just promises made before accession;

            4) Two NOes to EU Constitutional Treaty earlier this year;

            5) Approaching British Presidency of the EU;

            6) Changed political timetable due to two NOes and forthcoming elections in Germany preliminary scheduled for September;

            7) Serious disagreements on new financial perspective 2007-2013, agricultural subsidies or financing of the CAP in general, British rebate;

            8) Romania and Bulgaria on the door step to the EU, as well as Croatia seeking to start accession negotiations later this year, and Turkey to be invited to start accession negotiations if all conditions agreed last year be fulfilled before October, 2005 including recognition of Cyprus.

So, no doubt, situation is very difficult, but not critical. Even though the rhetoric before the Summit was dramatic: If we do not succeed, the Union will sink into a permanent crisis and paralysis (Quotation of Jose Duran Barroso).

A few comments on the points I have already mentioned.

Points 1, 3: Old EU member states are paying the price of the last EU enlargement. My country during the first year of membership received 1.2 billion Litas more than contributed to the EU budget. The old EU member states face high unemployment, increased competition for jobs, high taxes etc. Yesterday in the EP when discussing new financial perspective our Polish colleagues were joking that the trade unions in Poland have announced that 500 thousand of the Polish plumbers have already found jobs in France, and there is a need for another 70 thousand; plombiers polonaises, labour force coming from new member states is not just a joke, it is one of concerns and challenges old member states are facing at the moment. CONSOLIDATION of the EU is necessary, CONSOLIDATION should be a priority.

Points 2, 4: It is almost obvious that the EU has already failed in achieving its goal to ratify Constitutional Treaty before November 2006. Will the EU survive for sometime with the Treaty of Nice and other treaties in force? I think YES, the EU WILL SURVIVE, though with some difficulties.

Points 2, 4: We should continue with the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty. Lithuania's position also is to continue ratification process. Ten countries and EP have already ratified the document, two member states said NO, but those two NOes cannot decide the future of the document. We have to have a break for some time with the ratifications of the Constitution. This break might last until the end of this year. But even the EU member states will agree on this, i.e. further ratification, how to solve the problem with French and Dutch NOes: should we redraft the document, which has already been ratified by other ten member states or should we call new referendums in France and the Netherlands and provide French and Dutch citizens with another opportunity to express their position? It is up to the member states themselves to decide how to solve the problem, but at the moment we are in a deadlock, time is needed to evaluate the situation, all pros and contras, and to come up with the solution on ratification and the future of the Constitutional Treaty in general, if we really need this Treaty as it is now.

Points 5, 7: British Presidency will start on the 1 of July. It means strict budgetary policy, possibly less than 1 per cent of GNI (contributions) in payments appropriations, continuation of the British rebate, intentions to prioritize competitiveness, industry, research and development, the Lisbon strategy at the expense of agricultural subsidies, financing of the CAP, etc.

Point 8: Possibility of new enlargements. Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister, Barroso: The Union should deliver on its promises to Turkey. Consolidation should be a priority, with new enlargements we risk to loose our European project, and this risk is high. Absorption capacity of the EU, costs of enlargement.

Do we want in the future a Regional organization of the United Nations to replace the EU with its shared values, etc.?

And finally, CITIZENS, Participatory democracy: We like this or not, we should listen to the citizens. Voters in France and the Netherlands made it clear that their priorities are: employment, new jobs, NO to new enlargements, NO to corruption in the government.

So, my conclusions are the following:

1) CONSOLIDATION - first, ENLARGEMENT - second.

2) NOes are consequences, and not reasons. We should more listen to our citizens before making decisions.

3) EU is for its citizens, not vise versa. EUROPE OF CITIZENS should work, should function, and not remain one of Europe's unfinished projects.