SPEECH OF FOREIGN MINISTER KASOULIDES
Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs
H.E. Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides
At the European Policy Centre on "Cyprus in the New Europe"
(Brussels, 4 June 2002)
Allow me at the outset to thank the European Policy Centre for giving me this opportunity to be here among you once again in order to share with you some of my views and thoughts on the important and timely subject of the future of the European Union.
Before we embark on any discussion on how the new European edifice should look, it is essential to define and clarify what our vision for Europe is and what kind of Europe we envisage building for our citizens.
Our vision is one of a Europe that is strong, democratic, stable and prosperous, able to play a leading role in international politics and one that is capable of dealing with the challenges of growing globalization. We want a Union that will be able to safeguard peace, security and sustainable development for its members and their citizens and one where the fundamental principles of human rights are respected.
We also envisage a Union that, through the rich and diverse plethora of languages, cultures, nationalities, ethnicities and ideas that compose it, can create a common European identity and a sense of belonging to the same European family, with shared moral and political values while, at the same time, upholding and preserving the different cultures, nationalities and identities that compose it.
To fulfill this vision, Europe must become a serious and respected interlocutor on the world stage. The Union must be given the means to assume the role it deserves in global politics and one that the world expects from it. It is therefore necessary for the Union to have a greater depth and visibility, greater coordination and effectiveness and a clearer voice in world affairs. The Union must have the means for a developed and coordinated foreign and defense policy, culminating in a system of collective security, based on the principles of democracy, human rights and transparency, so that it can have the necessary tools to ensure the security of its citizens.
The Treaty of Nice and the Laeken Declaration have given us the framework in which to work for the attainment of these visionary goals. The ambitious agenda adopted by the Laeken Declaration has enabled us to set up a new democratic body, the Convention on the Future of Europe, which is mandated to proceed with an in depth discussion of the substantive issues relevant to the future development of the European Union and look into all the possible solutions to the problems that the Union is currently facing and submit its findings to the next Intergovernmental Conference.
The Convention, which has already started its deliberations last February, is a truly unique institution. It has, for the first time in the Union's history, brought together the current fifteen member-states and the thirteen candidate countries in one single democratic forum, where all the participants can have a frank and open exchange of views and ideas. It is also the first time that over one hundred representatives of the national Governments, from the present and prospective member-states, the National Parliaments, the European Parliament and the European Commission, will be examining together the reforms and changes that should be implemented in the enlarged Union of the 21st century.
The work of the Convention cannot be underestimated. Let me echo here the words of the Chairman of the Convention, President Giscard d' Estaing. "If we fail, we will add to the current confusion in the European Project which will not be able, following the current flow of enlargement, to provide a system to manage our continent which is both effective and clear to the public. If we succeed, that is to say, if we agree to propose a concept of the European Union which matches our continental dimension and the requirements of the 21st century, a concept that can bring unity to our continent and respect for its diversity, then we will be able to return home with the feeling of having contributed to writing a new chapter in the history of Europe".
Cyprus has taken these words very seriously. We intend to participate actively in the work of the Convention and to contribute constructively in the debate, fully acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead and the responsibilities that we have towards our citizens.
It is absolutely imperative that any debate on the future of Europe should bring the European citizen closer to the Union and its institutions. Our citizens should be involved in this debate in order to provide democratic legitimacy to the processes at hand and to the decisions to be taken. The consent of the European citizen in the achievement of our goals and aspirations is indispensable. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the political leadership to ensure that the citizens fully understand that those taking the decisions that directly affect their lives, acknowledge their opinions and take their concerns into consideration.
What our citizens want, is to have a Union that understands their problems and preoccupations and proposes the proper solutions and answers. They want a Union that ensures that the water they drink and the food they consume are safe and healthy. That their neighbourhoods and the streets they are walking are free from crime. They want a Union that is capable of ensuring proper education, health care, a clean environment and full employment. A Union that is successful in combating organized crime, illegal immigration, drugs smuggling and trafficking in human beings.
The future Europe must be more comprehensible to its citizens and must satisfy their needs. Closeness to society, democratic legitimacy and transparency in the decision-making process must be ensured. This can only be secured through the effective and qualitative implementation of the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and solidarity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Cyprus is a small country with a great sensitivity to the crucial issue of its present forced division and continued occupation of 37% of its territory. As a consequence, there is a deep consciousness of the contribution that the European Union can make to the establishment of peace and stability in the European Continent and the great potential for extending these benefits to the Eastern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe. There is also a profound belief that this contribution to peace and stability is inextricably linked to the process of European integration. This idea lies at the heart of our views on how our future common European home should look.
A vital element in this European process is the institutional balance created within the Union, including the prominent role of the Union's supra-national institutions, the Commission, the Parliament and the Court. We firmly believe that the role of these institutions, which lies at the basis of Europe's achievements thus far, must be preserved and upheld, while the Community method must be extended and enhanced.
The European Union is a system in which competences are shared between the Union and its member-states. The Union maintains only those competences allocated to it by the Treaties establishing it. Consequently, a strict delimitation of these competences is, I believe, an unnecessary exercise, since any effort to permanently and strictly delimit the Union's competences would be the source of many problems and would prohibit the Union from evolving and having the necessary flexibility to meet the needs of its citizens or the challenges of the future. What would be best in answering the question of defining the Union's competences would, rather, be to ensure more transparency in the Union's decision-making processes while always asking the question at which level (Union, State or Region) is the specific issue best dealt with and in which areas does the Union have a better comparative advantage for producing the best results. What is important is to find ways of practically incorporating the principle of subsidiarity in the Union's legislative processes.
International issues, defense, dealing with the effects of globalization, the threat of terrorism, combating organized crime, illegal immigration, asylum, money laundering and drugs trafficking, are obvious examples of issues where the collective efforts of the Union can be more effective than the individual efforts of its member-states, especially the smaller ones. The Union would also be in a better position to deal with such problems as global financial crime, global environmental threats, communicable diseases and global humanitarian crises where the pooling of resources would be more effective in countering the consequences of such global problems.
Moreover, the Union has considerable experience in the area of conflict prevention. Preventive diplomacy is part of the Union method of work. There is great scope for extending the Union?s action in this domain, on the basis of international legitimacy and UN resolutions. This would be even more effective if the Union coordinated its voice in international organizations to a greater extent.
As the biggest donor of international assistance, the European Union could also further coordinate all its external actions to serve the aims of preserving and extending democratic practices, good governance and respect for human rights.
The ambitious Euro-Mediterranean partnership project should also be promoted and enhanced even further, while greater efforts should be made to resolve the tensions that stand in the way of its successful conclusion.
Justice and Home Affairs issues have assumed an even greater significance following the tragic events of September 11th. A great deal has already been achieved here, including the setting up of the European arrest warrant, the common definition of terrorism and the adoption of a re-enforced money laundering directive. A lot can still be achieved and the time is probably ripe for integrating this 3rd pillar into the Community method and fully implementing the Tampere priorites.
Another area where the Union could be more active is that of bringing the European citizen and especially European youth, closer together. One way of achieving this is to proceed with the full implementation of the Lisbon agenda and, inter alia, facilitate mobility, advance knowledge and education, promote exchanges, encourage research and development and promote further sustainable development and equitable prosperity within the European continent.
The achievement of these objectives necessitates greater democracy, transparency and efficiency within the EU. Procedures are currently complex and inaccessible to the European citizen. These procedures and processes must be simplified and become more open. This need for greater openness, accountability and democratic legitimacy involves the strengthening of the role of the European Parliament, as well as the greater involvement of National Parliaments in EU business. The existing balance between the institutions must, however, not be disturbed if this is to be achieved.
The European Council has and should continue to have, the vital role of giving overall political direction to the Union, in establishing priorities and setting new directions for action. The Council is one of the Union's institutions, that is, by its nature, democratic since in it, are represented the democratically elected Governments of the member-states. In spite of this, citizens regard it as an elitist institution lacking in democratic legitimacy because there is little understanding of the way it works or of the rules of procedure and voting governing it, as well as lack of transparency. To dispel this negative image more access to the legislative work of the Council of Ministers is essential.
Any reform of the Council of Ministers should bear in mind that the balance between the member-states and the balance between the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the Parliament should not be disturbed.
The importance of a dynamic and effective Commission, as an initiator of legislation, guardian of the Treaties and neutral arbiter among competing priorities between member-states must be upheld. Some of the most successful areas of action in the EU are those in which the Commission has the initiative and is responsible for implementation.
The provisions of the Nice Treaty, regarding the composition of the Commission up to 27 members are sound. There are many national Councils of Ministers with 27 or more members that function effectively, while the right for each country to appoint a Commissioner contributes to an atmosphere of trust and enables the Commission to function in a supra-national way.
As for the role of the National Parliaments, this can be enhanced through increased Parliamentary scrutiny of EU business in each country, something that would also promote the sense of democratic control in each member-state. The creation, however, of an additional legislative chamber in the EU legislative process would only complicate things and could lead to greater delays, thus defeating the efforts for greater effectiveness.
Turning, lastly, to the issue of the Charter of Rights we believe that this should be incorporated into the Treaties. It is a fundamental European principle that people should know the rules by which they are governed. There is, clearly, a democratic deficit in this area, because the Treaties are too complex to make them comprehensible to the European citizen. A simplification of the Treaties is an urgent task. At the same time, encompassing the Charter of Rights within the Treaties would enhance the Union?s identity by having a clear statement of the individual rights that European States are bound to observe.
These are some general thoughts and ideas on how we, as a candidate country, see Europe evolving in future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European Union is currently debating its future and it stands on the threshold of its most important enlargement, which will heal the wounds of an artificially divided Europe and consolidate peace, stability and reconciliation. In the same way, Cyprus stands firmly on the same threshold, negotiating its own future, in the hope that its own artificial division and the painful wounds of the past will soon be healed.
We are fully committed to doing everything necessary to ensure that the political problem that has bedeviled our island for the past 28 years is resolved the soonest possible in a just and lasting way, on the basis of the relevant UN Resolutions, the Decisions of the ECHR and the acquis communautaire, so that all Cypriots will be able to enjoy the benefits of accession and live together in peace and harmony in a re-united home, as members of the enlarged European family of nations.
Thank you. GCh/ac