7. Statement by the European Council
—The next item is the statement by the European Council on the meeting of 26 and 27 November in London.
I call Mrs Thatcher, President-in-Office of the European Council, whose presence here I welcome. (Applause from various quarters)
Mrs Thatcher, President-in-Office of the European Council
—Madam President, this occasion is a pleasure and a privilege for me. It marks an important point in the development of the European Community. This is the first time that the Head of Government of the Member State occupying the Presidency has attended a session of the European Parliament for the purpose of giving an account of a meeting of the European Council. This fact that we meet today recognizes among other things that the European Council has become an important part of the European scene. It gives Heads of Government the opportunity to discuss matters where Community business and political considerations overlap. We need this opportunity for a general exchange of views, as well as for the resolution of the Community's most important problems.
The European Council held in London on 26 and 27 November was just such an occasion. The atmosphere throughout was friendly and constructive. Certainly there was more detailed discussion than usual because of the nature of the agenda. Nevertheless we spent several hours discussing the commanding problems of world recession and East-West relations. Indeed this European Council well illustrated the two features of our relationship; the first, the problems that have to be resolved between us, and the second, our relationship with the outside world. Those are equally important to the well-being of the people whom it is our privilege to represent.
The main subject we discussed was the mandate of 30 May. It is worth recalling how it originated.
The problem arose when one of the Member States, my own country, found itself bearing an unacceptable and increasing budgetary burden as a result of the combined effect of Community policies. As the Community analysed this problem, it became clear that the real issue was not confined to budgetary matters. It concerned the whole balance of Community policies, including the relationship of agricultural expenditure to regional, social and industrial expenditure. Agriculture absorbs a preponderant share of the Community budget and leaves insufficient resources for other areas equally relevant to the problems of advanced industrial societies, especially at a time of economic recession.
The Community agreed on 30 May 1980 that the problem should be resolved, and I quote ‘by means of structural changes’. The Commission was given a mandate to produce proposals as to how this could be achieved without infringing basic Community principles.
The Commission's report was produced in June and concentrated on three main areas or chapters. These were: the reform of the common agricultural policy, the development of other Community policies, in particular economic, regional and social policies, and the Community budget. It was agreed that all three chapters must be considered in parallel.
Behind the prosaic words of the mandate lies the essential belief that if it is to endure, a venture as bold and imaginative as the European Community must adapt to changing circumstances and to the hopes of generations yet to come. To the Community, as well as to its Member States, the dictum of that distinguished political thinker, Edmund Burke, applies. He said in the eighteenth century ‘A State without the means of change is without the means of its conservation’. (Applause from the European Democratic Group).
Speaking for myself, I believe that the Community can and will rise to the occasion. For however diverse our national histories, we all know that our future lies in working together. Of course the modern tendency of politicians is to want more spending on their own particular interests in their own country. Indeed, it is sometimes hard to believe that parliamentary democracy started with the intent to curb the power of the executive to impose greater taxation on ordinary citizens.
Throughout our deliberations in the European Council ran the constant reminder that our resources are limited, and the question is how to allocate them fairly.
The 30 May mandate laid on the British Presidency the responsibility of reaching decisions by the end of this year. That target was always ambitious. It became more so when a change of government brought about in one Member State by national elections understandably delayed detailed discussion until well into [end p1] September. The responsibility of the Presidency against the background which I have described was truly heavy and we have made strenuous efforts to advance the discussions.
At the European Council on 26/27 November the three chapters were talked over in great detail. From the Community loan facility and its extension through the proper priorities of regional policy and its finance, prudent policies for agriculture, national aids, export and import policies, to the budgetary decisions themselves. Throughout we recognized that each conclusion could only be conditional as it rested on a comprehensive agreement about all three chapters.
I had very much hoped to be able to report to you today that the European Council had been able to reach full agreement on all these matters. Unfortunately I cannot do so. Much progress was made, but on four main areas we were unable to reach any measure of agreement. These are: first, the problems arising from the Community's milk regime. Second, the way to deal with Mediterranean agriculture. Third, how to relate the share of agricultural expenditure to the development of the Community budget as a whole. And, fourth, how to ensure that no Member State is put into an unacceptable situation as a result of the total effect of the Community budget.
We asked our Foreign Ministers to meet informally as soon as possible in a further effort to resolve these matters and to report to heads of government. That meeting took place on 14 and 15 December. Despite their best endeavours, Foreign Ministers were not able to reach agreement on the outstanding points. They therefore decided to invite the Gaston ThornPresident of the Commission to make revised proposals for guidelines on the four points in the light of their discussions.
They have agreed to meet again to consider these proposals in the first half of January. I hope rapid progress can then be made. (Applause from certain quarters).
Further delay will serve no one's interests and the need to press ahead remains as strong as ever.
Madam President, this Parliament will wish to know that at the beginning of the Council's proceedings Mr Papandreou, the Prime Minister of Greece, made a statement about the economic problems of Greece and his Government's attitude towards the Community. I should also report that Chancellor Schmidt and Mr Spadolini drew the attention of the European Council to the ideas put forward by their governments for closer European cooperation. The Foreign Ministers will now examine the ideas, some of which are far-reaching, and report back to a future European Council.
Madam President, our Community works against the backcloth of world economic problems. The European Council addressed itself to the economic and social situation and the difficulties facing us at a time of continuing world recession. Accustomed to growth over many years, we have entered a period when we do not expect to see it resume at such a rate for some time to come, Thus, advancing technologies and changing patterns of world trade have left our countries with levels of unemployment we thought never to see again. Every country is especially concerned about unemployment among youth, and we all recognize the need for better training. We shall return to this aspect of our work at future Councils.
In our general approach to economic policies, we endorsed the view of the Commission—namely, that the objectives of fighting inflation and unemployment need determined policies to bring deficits under control and to keep production, distribution and unit labour costs in check. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of that discussion centred on the effect of high public deficits. They, we were told, lead to unusually high real interest-rates, which in turn strangle expansion. Thus, high public deficits turn out not to be reflationary but deflationary.
Madam President, at times of national difficulty a tendency to protectionism is strong; but apart from limited areas, where a period of adjustment is necessary, we recognize that it is not in the best interests of our people. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
Protectionism in some products can so easily lead to retaliation in others. We were very conscious that we need to pursue a Community policy on trade with Japan. The Community has put its detailed points to the Japanese Government, and we now await their response. In the meantime, we have to continue to rely on national arrangements so as to reinforce the efforts of the Community as a whole.
As the third anniversary of the European Monetary System falls next March, we agreed to review its operation at that time.
The theme of economic cooperation between countries, including the United States, ran strongly through all our deliberations. We are each affected by the economic policies pursued by others. We believe that that is something we must each take into account in order the better to come through recession to expansion of world trade once again.
Madam President, the Community is, and must continue to be, a force for stability in the world … (Applause from various quarters) [end p2] … a world that is sadly torn and distracted by conflict. Coordination of foreign policies through political cooperation is a key element in that rôle. It is vital to come together quickly in times of tension. The European Council welcomed the London report of the Foreign Ministers, which provided for important practical improvements in the organization of political cooperation. The growing strength and cohesion of Europe in these matters is reflected in the way Heads of Government approached issues and the range of issues they discussed. We were not simply discussing language for resounding communiqués. We were constructing European policy, policy which increasingly involves taking initiatives rather than merely responding to events.
The problems discussed included East-West relations, Afghanistan, Poland, disarmament and the Middle East. The Helmut SchmidtFederal Chancellor told us about his conversations with President Brezhnev on the occasion of the latter's recent visit to Bonn. We all agreed on the importance of keeping open the channels of communication between East and West. We welcome the commitment of the United States, announced in President Reagan 's speech of 18 November, to achieve major mutual reductions in nuclear and conventional systems. The Council restated in strong terms its concern at the continuing Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Madam President, the protection and furtherance of liberty and democracy was the purpose which inspired the founding of the Community. That purpose is as urgent today as when the Community began. With regard to the accession of Spain and Portugal, the European Council reaffirmed our strong political commitment to bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion. These negotiations involve problems, but we all have a common interest in strengthening these newly restored democracies and in supporting them in their solidarity with the aims of Western Europe. (Applause from various quarters)
The representation of the people is an essential principle of democracy. The Presidency has worked hard to improve the dialogue between the Council and the Parliament. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
Thanks to the cooperation we have received from you, the Members of this Parliament, I believe we have had some success. This is one reason why I am here today. The meeting between the ten Foreign Ministers and you, Madam President, and leaders of the Parliament, with the participation of the Commission, marked another important innovation.
The common aim of all these deliberations is to help create a Community which functions more effectively, which protects the democracy and freedom which Europe cherishes and which takes all available opportunities to extend that democracy. For, Madam President, this area of stability and democracy in Europe is a priceless asset in a troubled world. We often count our problems. We should sometimes count our blessings. I say this in particular in a week when the events in Poland are much on our minds. The problems of Poland are for the Poles to solve, and we hope they will do so by a process of compromise and negotiation, but we must not take our liberties for granted. In the changing world in which we live, we must work if we are to preserve them. It is that challenge which makes progress on our own problems so imperative.
I hope that by the time the Belgian Presidency comes to report on the outcome of the European Council in March next year it will be possible to describe substantive conclusions on many of these issues. The successful future development of the Community as an instrument for furthering the cause of democracy and freedom depends on making speedy progress in our deliberations. For, Madam President, freedom must mean more than freedom to differ. It must mean freedom to act together to conserve our common beliefs, so that our children may enjoy that peace with liberty which is the greatest gift to mankind.(Sustained applause from the centre and from the right)
—I call the Commission.
Mr Thorn, President of the Commission
—(FR) Madam President, Madam President of the European Council, ladies and gentlemen, Parliament is allowing me four or five minutes to speak—fortunately, I should say, since that means I do not have to make a speech. In any case today is the day when Parliament renews acquaintance with the European Council. The Commission wished it to be so and it is therefore my pleasure to leave the Members of this house all the time they need: we shall no doubt be meeting again on other occasions. (Laughter)
Will you allow me to make three quick remarks. I should like first of all to thank on behalf of the Commission and in your presence, Madam President, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for the work and the efforts which she and her distinguished colleagues have given throughout the term of her presidency: I speak from experience when I tell you that it is not always easy. I would like to add that by coming to this house today the President of the Council is giving shining proof of the coherence and institutional logic which is a result of your own election by universal suffrage and which completes the circle of proper and democratic operation of this Community: that, ladies and gentlemen, is important for you and [end p3] for the Community as a whole. For it was inconceivable that a European Council which had willed the election of our Assembly by direct universal suffrage should then ignore it and not appear before you: it was illogical and it was a political mistake; today, Madam, that mistake has been put right. It was a condition which had to be met before there could be institutional peace within our Community. (Applause)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is quite clear that the political situation which has developed over the last few days casts a bleak and very special light over the problems which we face within our Community. The year is ending in an atmosphere of doubt and tension. I do not propose to raise unnecessary alarm, but I wish nevertheless to set things before you as I see them—not just I but no doubt many of you and without doubt millions of our fellow citizens.
Where have we reached? We are at the nadir of the greatest economic crisis since the war and we are in the midst of the greatest political crisis we have seen for years. We cannot ignore what is going on in other corners of the European peninsula. Even if the first right of every people is to resolve its own problems we cannot remain indifferent to what is going on elsewhere in our continent. Wherever people with a desire for peace and for progress are in difficulty the Community as a community feels concerned. Wherever the development of democratic ideas is needed the Community feels it is involved. Wherever the threat of isolation from the world hangs the Community has the duty to react today more than ever. (Applause)
You will agree then, ladies and gentlemen, that under the circumstances we must put the question of our own internal problems, but they general or specific, into perspective. That does not mean that we must minimize them, even less that we should skate around them. What it means quite simply is that we must approach them mindful of the seriousness of what is going on outside and of what is at stake in the present situation. I must say that during those very meetings in London at the end of November and earlier this week the political heads of our Member States were very much aware of our increased need for cohesion. They understood perfectly the seriousness of the situation and the need to continue progress—at whatever price—along the road towards new stimulus for the Community. We the Commission are of course disappointed that agreement could not be reached all around, but we agree with the President of the European Council that every government represented at the Council realized the limitations of its own individual and even, I think, national capacity, and realized that more than ever the need was for solidarity and for Community policy. And if it was at that point that the President of the Commission was asked to try and find a solution to the remaining problems—problems whose magnitude I will not attempt to conceal—it is no less than recognition of the role which the Commission plays in our Community. It is within the limits of the mandate which has been conferred upon us. It is also within the limits of what this Parliament has asked us to do and we are going to do everything we can, Madam President, to reach a real solution by 15 January.
Following that, I should say that Parliament should also remember that building Europe has never really been the task of a few officials, no matter how devoted they may be. Making economic, social and political progress nowadays has become everybody's job. It is your job too, ladies and gentlemen. It is up to you to make your electors aware of what is at stake with the Community's internal situation and what is going on internationally, and what it will cost. I think the time has come to put our priorities right. We know we have a milk problem to resolve and we have a budget problem to resolve. We are not going to minimize them; we are going to try to resolve them. But we must realize first and foremost as Europe enters its second generation that Europe is still seeking itself, that Europe is concerned, but that the need for Europe is greater than ever. So, let us look to our priorities. Let us define Europe. Let us find Europe. Let us find it together and give ourselves a policy to work with, whether it is a budget policy or even better, an institutional policy. That is the dialogue which I hope all three of us together are now in a position to start. (Applause)
—I call the Socialist Group.
—(FR) Madam President, Madam President of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, I think I speak on behalf of the entire House when I express our satisfaction that our demands both old and new have been met and that the President-in-Office of the European Council herself has come to report to us on the work of that high authority. (Applause from various quarters)
It is our hope that this first occasion will become a well-established tradition and that the President-in-Office will come and report to us personally after every meeting of the European Council.
Having thus had the privilege of hearing the comments of the President-in-Office on the outcome of the London Summit, I would like first of all to express our approval of the fact that the Council put particular stress on détente, cooperation and disarmament. [end p4]
I would like to say despite the seriousness of the subject that it is far better that we should deploy all our efforts at achieving disarmament rather than deploying whole arsenal of variable-range and even, I believe, interstellar missiles. It is our very earnest hope that all concerned will appreciate that the common interest—in its strictly literal sense—of whole peoples and whole generations is involved in this question of détente, cooperation and disarmament, and that alone must impel us to rapid and substantial progress.
I hope that the call of the millions of Europeans who have demonstrated for peace during the course of the last few months will be heard by their heads of state. (Applause from the left)
This I say with all the more conviction since at this very moment heart-rending events are taking place in a country which is both close and dear to us, Poland, events which we wish had never taken place and which we still hope will not seriously jeopardize international relations.
As regards the European union and recent initiatives relating to it, what seems most important to us is to give the Community institutions the means to bring about the European social area proposed by President Mitterrand: a social area where workers are not thrown away like worn out tools, where the bill for economic recovery is not paid by the workers alone and where the fat cattle do not go to one part of the population and the lean cattle to the other, despite the fact that it is the majority.
What we want is a Europe which is first of all made for workers, a Europe which is responsible towards them and particularly towards the least privileged amongst them.
I have to tell the House very plainly that as far as the Socialists are concerned there can be no question of asking workers for any moderation in wage demands unless they are compensated by additional benefits.
I come finally to the most disappointing points arising from the London Summit. Serious disagreement was apparent on four well-known points: dairy surpluses, Mediterranean agriculture, agricultural expenditure and the place of the common agricultural policy in the budget.
Regrettably we cannot be sure that the role of the outgoing Presidency was particularly positive in this question since the evidence suggests that the United Kingdom is still resolutely opposed to any budgetary solution which would bring about the implementation of new common policies.
Of course, the London Summit did not break down. Of course, it is quite understandable that heads of state and government were unable to find an easy solution where specialist Councils had already failed; the fact still remains that there was a deep split between partners in four crucial areas.
The agreed procedure says that the governments of the Member States must now find a solution to the four questions which have been put to them, failing which instead of making progress Europe will be taking a step backwards, and no amount of progress in the field of political cooperation will remedy that. European public opinion may be willing to understand and allow a few weeks' delay, but any failure to reach decisions will be condemned vigorously, since the undertaking to implement new policies—the whole of the first part of the report on the 30 May Mandate—ought to allow the Community to get down finally to the critical and immediate problem of unemployment. (Applause)
—I call the Group of the European People's Party (Christian-Democratic Group).
—(DE) Madam President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, this is an important date in the history of the European Parliament. Prime Minister, I would like to thank you on behalf of my group that for the first time the Head of Government of a presiding Member State has given the elected European representatives an account of a meeting of the European Council. (Applause from the right and the centre)
This is a visible sign of the esteem in which Parliament is held—esteem for the elected advocate of the peoples of the European Community. Prime Minister, in this way you have not only created a better climate between Parliament and the Council, you are also founding what I hope is a new tradition of cooperation. (Applause from various quarters)
Tomorrow we will debate the six months of the British Presidency. However, please allow me to touch briefly on a number of points you raised. You made it very clear that the European Community was founded in order to ensure peace, freedom and democracy for us and the coming generations. This is indeed the central issue and so I welcome the fact that you consider it vital for the Community to act more rapidly in times of tension and that mere reaction to political events should at last make way for European initiatives.
In this respect I am pleased to hear that you support the plans of Foreign Ministers Colombo and Genscher to extend European Political Cooperation and that [end p5] you are clearly in favour of Spanish and Portuguese entry; in general I can only underscore what you said on the need for continued development of the European Community.
Unfortunately, Prime Minister, the reality is different. I by no means wish to detract from the United Kingdom's contribution or to question its goodwill when I say openly: we have come to a virtual standstill on the key questions of the European Community. Unfortunately, yesterday's meeting of the Foreign Ministers was basically inconclusive, similar to the disappointing Maastricht and London summits. I repeat: what we need is to break the political deadlock in the Council. (Applause)
Prime Minister, precisely because you have made such an eloquent plea for progress in Europe, we must prepare the ground to make it possible. I cannot say often enough: as long as the decision-making mechanisms do not function, as long as the Council pursues the policy of the smallest common denominator in line with the undesirable trend started by the Luxembourg désaccord, Europe will not escape from its self-imposed impasse. (Applause)
The Community will develop positively if, with the support of the European Council, we succeed in achieving cooperation between a Council with a clear political will, a Commission which is confident about its rôle and an active and dynamic Parliament.
Many people outside the Community have their eye on free Europe at this very moment. You referred to Poland. Let me add that we hope that the Polish people will be able to solve its problems on its own. There as everywhere else in the world we firmly support the right to self-determination and basic and human rights. (Applause from the right and the centre)
Prime Minister, now that you have made such a positive appeal for new forms of cooperation between Parliament and the Council, we ask you to do what you can in future to help Europe out of its impasse. We offer you our support, in the interests of the citizens of Europe. (Applause from the right and the centre)
—I call the European Democratic Group.
Sir James Scott-Hopkins
—Madam President, I wish to join with previous speakers and other chairmen of political groups in welcoming the President-in-Office of the Council here today. Like them, I think that what she has done by coming here is to create an atmosphere of trust between the Council and this Parliament. I welcome the initiative that has been taken and I hope that Mrs Thatcher has set a precedent here to be followed by future Presidents of the Council. (Applause from certain quarters)
Like the political cooperation of the Foreign Ministers, the Council itself is working, in ways not provided for in the actual Treaty, and it depends on precedent and tradition for its future working. I sincerely hope that will mean that not only will the President come here and report after Council meetings but that there will be an opportunity also of asking questions and obtaining answers either from the President concerning such Council meetings or from the President of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Turning to the points which were made by the Prime Minister, it is of course disappointing that no further concrete progress was made either at the November summit or at the Foreign Ministers meeting of Monday and Tuesday of this week. They were trying to tackle four areas which are extremely difficult, but like other colleagues in this House, I hope that these can be resolved. I ask myself whether the Council over which the Prime Minister presided should not in future concentrate on the big issues and leave the details to be settled by the ministers in the other Councils on the basis of guidelines given by the Council. I think one must be not too depressed by the fact that no agreement has been reached. I think one must look at the more concrete and positive results of that Council. There is no doubt that progress was made, not only in understanding between ministers and between members of the Council, but also in areas relating to the economic future of the Community, the necessity to deal with the grave problems which do face the Community. I do believe that unless we deal with such major issues as unemployment and the high levels of inflation in all our countries, then the Community will not have the necessary momentum to continue. I believe that the fact that the Council did address itself to these problems, and we heard the result of that in the Prime Minister's speech just now, is to be really welcomed. I am glad, for instance, that there is going to be a review of the EMS in March and I sincerely hope that all members of the ten countries will by that time be members of it. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
These are indeed grave days that we live in, Madam President, the situation just evolving at the moment in Poland is giving us all grave cause for anxiety. It is comforting to know that our leaders in the Council are together in their solidarity concerning the need to help Poland and the need to make certain that there is no outside intervention from any other country such as Russia. I am quite certain that this House will want [end p6] to give the message to the Prime Minister in future meetings that it is essential that we do all we can to help the Polish people regain—I think that is the right word to use now—their freedom and democracy.
In conclusion, Madam President, may I say that the British Presidency during the last six months is to be congratulated on the number of Ministers who have come to this House. The innovation of having ten foreign ministers, led by the Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom, was to be greatly welcomed, and I sincerely hope that the precedents that have been set will be followed, as I am sure they will be, by future presidencies.
Although is has not, perhaps, been the final conclusion which we can all say was what we wanted at the beginning, I do believe that the solidarity which has been shown by the Prime Minister in her reaffirmation of the need for solidarity in Europe is something we must cherish in this Parliament and do everything we can to further. That is the way that our citizens and our electors are going to be able to gain benefit from Europe, and I strongly support what she has said. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
—I call the Communist and Allies Group.
—(IT) Madam President, Mrs Thatcher, ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time we have witnessed the failure of a European summit but this time it is more serious in my view on account of the moment at which it has occurred. The fact of the matter is that the Member States of the Community are beset by an economic and social crisis, the most disturbing symptom of which is that we have more than nine million out of work, and within two or three years this number could reach 15 million unless the present economic trend is halted and reversed.
Another problem for the Community is the shadow of international tension. Unless this tension is eased very quickly, as each day passes it is going to be another factor in our regression and economic and political stagnation. New and dramatic problems have arisen with the question marks over the serious events in Poland and the dramatic move by Israel on the Golan Heights. As the Italian Communists are against any act which harms the sovereignty of nations and people's freedoms—no matter where in the world, be it in Afghanistan, El Salvador or Turkey—we want to speak out from this European Parliament to express our utter condemnation of the violation of people's rights in Poland and our solidarity with the Polish people … (Sustained applause)
… and with all the civil and religious forces which are striving to achieve a fresh political solutions, based on democracy and preserving the sovereignty of the Polish nation.
As for the unacceptable surprise move by Israel, which is bound to stoke the fire of the Middle East conflict, we feel it is essential to go back on the decision to send a peace-keeping force to the Sinai. At this stage it would seem an endorsement of the Israeli action and an expression of antagonism towards the entire Arab world.
More generally, we must also remember that the southern half of the world is hoping as well for an independent Europe which will have a political and economic role to play on the international stage, in relations between East and West as well as between North and South. Europe must no longer be content to make noble but inadequate efforts at feebly limiting the more dangerous repercussions of the tension and rivalry between the two superpowers.
What this means is that today, more than ever, the European Community needs to achieve the utmost in terms of positive and fresh initiatives and in terms of unity. Instead, there has been an explosion of all kinds of centrifugal trends, protectionist moves and nationalist ideas. Does each individual country really think it can solve its problems on its own, particularly as the Community can no longer cope with the thrusting economic competition of the Japanese and Americans? And why is there no progress—in fact things are moving backwards, as the London summit showed—with the economic and political integration which Europe desperately needs?
To my mind, the major cause is to be found in the shortsighted political vision of the governments and those in economic control and in their proven natural inability to take integration beyond the limits which have now been reached. At the same time, in our view, some of the blame must also go to the labour movement in the West, since to some extent it is hampered by strictly national ideas of its actual role and interests. But there is no getting away from the fact that the labour movement in western Europe today is the element which can act on the whole fabric of the Community and provoke a fresh revival of the process of integration, so that the masses hoping for change and the healthier elements among the workers can be summoned and mobilized to work for a policy of development, social change and peace.
Just consider the overwhelming demonstrations for peace which simultaneously brought into the streets of almost all Europe's capitals vast crowds of workers, young people and women, and you will realize that these people are expressing their determination to build a Europe different from today's, with a keen desire to take a fresh approach, to get together and to [end p7] play a major part in the world's struggle for peace, new development and cooperation. (Loud applause)
—I call the Liberal and Democratic Group.
—(DE) Madam President, I too would like to thank the President of the European Council, whose visit opens a new chapter in the relationship between the European Parliament and the European Council. Thanks have already been expressed by others but I hope the President will also accept the small liberal flower which I add to this large bouquet.
I hope so all the more because I have a number of critical comments to make, not as regards the goodwill of the British Presidency and of course not as regards the personal will of the President herself, but as regards the results of the endeavours so far. You rightly pointed out that the problems which exist between us must be solved by ourselves and you referred to the problem of Community financing.
Well, the first step is to reach agreement on basic issues—here too there are some points on which the European Council is still undecided. Is it not true, Madam President, that if the Community is to act jointly to combat unemployment it must also have the necessary means at its disposal? (Applause from various quarters)
It is not true that in using these means the Community is not misappropriating national funds but is using its own resources to solve its own problems on the basis of solidarity? (Applause from various quarters)
You referred to Parliament in what I think was a somewhat ironic context when you pointed out that in the history of parliamentary systems parliaments have always hindered governments from spending money. I should like to follow up this line of thought—I assume this is what you had in mind when you referred to us—i.e. we are the Parliament that compels governments to spend money. However, Madam President, we are not doing this simply to spend money for its own sake but because we must prove to our citizens that Community solidarity exists, as otherwise they will lose their faith in the Community! (Applause from various quarters)
I believe in the Commission's goodwill. I believe in your personal goodwill. But you say yourself that the Commission submitted a report on the four problems of milk, the Mediterranean, agriculture and the unacceptable budget situation. You were not able to agree and so you passed the report on to the Foreign Ministers. The Foreign Ministers were unable to agree and now they have requested the President of the Commission to submit a new report. I do not wish to be impolite—you quoted Edmund Burke—but imagine the satire which Swift would have created out of this situation. (Laughter and applause)
I would like you to show the same courage as our colleague Berlinguer here today—and I would like to thank him wholeheartedly for the frankness with which he spoke on the Polish problem. (Applause)
All of us in this Parliament are willing to help you. However, we wish that a Head of Government, a Foreign Minister, a Minister for Internal Affairs, a Minister for Economics, a Minister for Agriculture would for once have the courage to speak so openly.
You speak of European Political Cooperation. What does the European Council say to the fact that the Foreign Minister of an important Member State has reneged on the Venice Declaration? You speak of political cooperation. What do you say to the fact that the Prime Minister of an important country—the same one—has suddenly adopted a different standpoint on Portugal and Spain than the one already agreed on in the context of European Political Cooperation. What is your opinion on that? (Applause)
Madam President, we are interested in Europe just as much as you are. We want it to move forward. This is also why we were elected; we have a mandate from the peoples of this Community and we want to fulfil it. We need your help, but not only in the form a goodwill: we need deeds to support this Community, because this is what its citizens expect and this is what they are entitled to! (Loud applause)
—I call the Group of European Progressive Democrats.
Mr de la Malène
—(FR) Madam President-in-Office, like everyone else I would like to thank you for your presence here: we regard it as a symbolic gesture to which we attach great importance. We also greet you in your capacity and with your responsibilities as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Your calm courage and your tenacity are legendary and we [end p8] frequently envy our British colleagues who have a head of government such as yourself. (Applause from certain quarters—Laughter)
We are all aware how much years of socialist rule have cost your country and how difficult the road to recovery now is. (Mixed reactions)
I mean it quite sincerely when I say that Great Britain is very lucky to have you.
What is unfortunate, Madam, is that Europe has not been quite so lucky. You have come to us empty-handed after the last European Council over which you presided.
Empty handed because you yourself made it that way! Throughout the last two years, at every Council meeting, the first and finest of the European Community's achievements, the common agricultural policy, has been under fire. Community preferences were modified under pressures from yourself, in discussions on Europe the notion of ‘just returns’, fatal to the Community, has been raised, even though your country had negotiated its entry into the Community twice over … (Applause from certain quarters)
… and the common agricultural policy had already been in operation for a long time. You cannot have been taken by surprise.
For more than two years Europe has stagnated. At the very time when clouds loom on the horizon, at the very time when the need is greatest for solidarity amongst the nations of Europe, these endless fruitless discussions, this questioning of Community achievements, undermine the faith of our fellow citizens in the value and in the future of Europe.
Political cooperation will not replace the Community. Why, then, should we be surprised by the wave of pacifism which has spread across the continent? Why should we be surprised that so many young people seek their future, their destiny, their enthusiasm and perhaps even their protection elsewhere when the future of Europe no longer offers them those things?
At a time our friends and neighbours the Poles are living through an appalling tragedy which affects us all, the inadequacy of the voice of Europe and the inadequacy of European unity look starkly plain. (Applause from various quarters of the centre and right)
—I call the Group for the Technical Coordination and Defence of Independent Groups and Members.
—Madam President, Madam President-in-Office of the European Council, for the record might I first of all say that it is my recollection that this is not the first visit of the President-in-Office of the European Council. I think that honour goes to my countryman Mr Jack Lynch, who visited us at our first meeting after the direct elections to Parliament in July 1979.
In her address, the President-in-Office of the European Council dealt with the depression generally, the economic depression, the ensuing unemployment, particularly amongst our youth, the plight of many of our peripheral regions, and particularly, of course, the cost of the agricultural policy came in for a knocking, though I might put on the record here that its true cost is computed today to be 49%; and not the 74%; of 12 months ago.
We have had, as one might expect at this particular time, very emotional references, not only by the President-in-Office of the European Council but also by other speakers, to the plight of the people of Poland. Of course, we have had such references to Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Afghanistan, wherever you will—and rightly so. But I as an Irishman, as an Irish Member, am totally disappointed that the President-in-Office should make no reference to the oldest, the longest-running conflict on record in history, to the plight of my country, Ireland, divided, subjugated and occupied as it has been for over 800 years by a member of this Community, a country where we have soldiers wearing the uniform of one Member State in open conflict, in a state of war for the last 10 or 11 years, with the Irish, where we have had over 2000 deaths during that time and many thousands injured. These are the things that we must concern ourselves with, and it is no good simply taking the view that this is an internal matter and therefore can be put aside. It is a matter for the Council; it is matter for the entire Community; it is something that this Council should see to, and I would ask, that the President bring that message to the Council, that it should try and resolve this issue so that my people and the people of Great Britain may as neighbours and friends contribute the more and the better to the well-being of the entire Community. (Applause from the extreme left)
—(IT) Madam President, I have to say in all candour that if this House were a court of law the Prime Minister of England would be guilty of contempt. [end p9]
I think it would be just if Poland returned to freedom, just as I do for Turkey and for Afghanistan. And for exactly the same reasons I say that it would be just if the forces of occupation were withdrawn from Northern Ireland, which has now become Europe's own little Afghanistan.
And I would also like to remind you that the recent decisions taken by the Israeli government with regard to the Golan Heights represent a clear and frightening threat of war.
I believe that the moment has now come for the Ten to follow the courageous example of Mr Papandreou and recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and, by doing so, to show a real spirit of peace on behalf of the European Community.
—I call the non-attached Members.
—Madam President, the address by the President of the European Council, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is clear evidence of the importance attached to the increasing responsibility and role of the European Parliament. As a Member from Greece, I wish to express the conviction that today's proceedings will be noted and appreciated by the majority of the Greek people. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
The British Presidency has given force, drive and style, mainly to European political cooperation. In particular, I wish to stress the initiatives for opening negotiations designed to limit nuclear weapons in Europe, as well as the initiatives on Afghanistan and the Middle E* although I should also point out the absence of the necessary stand on Cyprus, where the continued Turkish military occupation constitutes a serious and dangerous violation of international order. (Applause from certain quarters)
However, the political impact of the Community on the grave international developments—and I am now certainly referring to the recent critical events in Poland—could not be secured until and unless decisive progress was realized in the whole network of interdependent decisions which are essential and urgent for the cohesion and effectiveness of the Community as a whole. In this direction, there has been no progress: on the contrary, in the recent European Council there has been an absence of a sense of urgency and of the political willpower necessary for decisive advance in the European Community.
I wish to make three remarks in this connection. First, the economic and social crises—the crisis of grave unemployment and excessive inflation, as well as the almost zero economic growth in our countries—can be overcome only by common action within the European Community.
Secondly, action by the European Community should be inspired and carried out consistently and effectively by a single voice and a Community approach, as distinct from the arrangements of a loose intergovernmental cooperation. In this connection, I wish to stress the importance of adequately taking into account the particularities, as well as the problems and weaknesses, of the Mediterranean and other relatively weak peripheral member countries. And in saying this I certainly refer to Greece.
The converging specific Greek proposals put forward at various stages to the institutions of the Community by Greek representatives belonging to more than one political party indicate the Greek national support for such action. The Community, as well as all other countries, should become aware of the major significance of overcoming the crisis for such action by balanced growth and political cohesion in the European Community as a whole.
Thirdly, we need action in all these directions for the creation of a new model of democratic society designed to overcome the problems of our age as we approach the final stages of our century and the beginning of the 21st century. (Applause form the centre and from the right)
—(IT) Madam President, Madam President-in-Office, I must of course join with all those who have expressed their satisfaction at the decision of the British Prime Minister to end her half-year of office by meeting this House: a meeting which is of great significance and which cannot fail to inspire hope despite the failure of the Venice Summit and despite the fact that the British Presidency's attempt to give some political life to the Community failed to avoid the same fate. A fate which can be summed up in the fact that this morning the President-in-Office has told us that the London Summit was unable to deal with the main problems of the 30 May mandate, which themselves remain fundamental and beyond the control of those who brought about the situation which, for practical purposes, led to the 30 May mandate …
—Mr Romualdi, you have used all the non-attached Members' speaking time.
—… I should like to conclude by saying that in the wake of the failure of the London Summit we cannot but fear for the future of Europe: at a time when we are directly threatened by communism, communism which tramples every liberty [end p10] but which was applauded this morning in this very chamber; that is what remains as the … (The President did not allow the speaker to continue—protest by Mr Pannella, who hotly challenged the accuracy of measurement of the speaking time)
—I call the European Council
Mrs Thatcher, President-in-Office of the European Council
—Madam President, may I make one thing clear from the very interesting debate that we have had this morning I am here in one capacity and for one purpose only: I am here as President-in-Office of the European Council for the specific purpose of reporting on what took place at the European Council: not to give a speech on matters of my own choice or to give my own opinions: only to report on what occurred at the European Council to the European Parliament. (Applause from some quarters in the centre and on the right)
Now, clearly there are many things which I could say in answer to some of the points that have been made. Some of them had nothing to do with the meeting of the European Council … (Cries of ‘Hear, hear!’?
… and on the whole, I think it would be better for me to be typically British—that is, clam, firm and controlled, … (Laughter)
… and it would be better for us all if I stick to the task which I came to perform. (Interruption)
Well, some of the comments were made so loudly that I couldn't quite hear what was said. (Loud laughter)
It has been an honour to come; it is a privilege to be a part of the Community; it is a privilege to serve democracy, and I hope, Madam President, that Members of this distinguished Parliament will just take some account of what I said at the end of my address. Freedom does mean more than freedom to differ. It does mean freedom to go ahead in a positive spirit of cooperation, and I do stress that very much. I, of course, shall return shortly to London and I have listened with great care to the preliminary comments from representatives of the political groups. Lord Carrington, President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers, will be in this Chamber when you continue to debate tomorrow afternoon, and he will report on developments during the United Kingdom Presidency and on political cooperation. Mr Douglas Hurd will be here today until he takes Question Time this evening, and Mr Nicholas Ridley, President-in-Office of the Budgets Council, is with you most of the week. Now, I stress again, all four of us are glad to play our part in strengthening the working relationship between the institutions of the Community. Each institution has its own role to play, but our basic objectives are the same and I stress again, we must work in harmony.
Finally, Madam President, because I do not wish to run out of time—I believe in keeping to the laws and rules of any institution of which I am a part— (Applause from the European Democratic Group) may I say it really has been, not only an interesting experience, but a great privilege and a pleasure to be with you today, and may I express the hope that I shall be here again when the Presidency next falls to the United Kingdom.(Laughter—Applause from the centre and from the right)
—I call Mr Pannella on a point of order.
—(FR) Madam President, I would ask you to check the speaking time from the tapes. According to the recording made for the radical radio station we were entitled to another 57 seconds, and you should have known this.
—Your group might have had a few seconds left. We shall check. (The sitting was suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.)