In the chair: Mr Pflimlin
—We have now reached the time scheduled for the next item. The joint debate will now be interrupted and continued this afternoon.
4. Statements by the Council and Commission on the European Council meeting in Londen
—The next item is the statements by the European Council and the Commission following the European Council meeting of 5 and 6 December in London, followed by a debate.
I respectfully welcome the Prime Minister of Great Britain and President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers. I thank you, Mrs Thatcher, for agreeing to be with us today and to remain until the sitting ends at 1 p.m.(Applause)
President-in-Office of the European Council.—Mr President, I was privileged in 1981 to be the first Head of Government holding the Presidency of the Community to report to you on the outcome of a European Council. Since then the tradition of such reports has become well established and it is no less a privilege today, five years later, to be the first Head of Government to deliver the report for the second time. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
The Community has some notable successes to its credit since my last visit. Enlargement has brought in Spain and Portugal. Their joining strengthens Europe and strengthens them. (Interruption by Mr Paisley: That is our message to you, Mrs Thatcher)
The European Council at Fontainebleau introduced a much needed fairness into the Community's financial arrangements.
We have set a target date of 1992 for realizing one of the Community's original goals … (Mr Paisley held up a poster bearing the words: ‘Ulster says No!’ in front of Mrs Thatcher)
—Ushers, remove Mr Paisley!(Applause from the European Democratic Group)
—I would like to indict you, Mrs Thatcher, as a traitor to the loyalist people of Northern Ireland in denying them the right to vote on the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
President-in-Office of the European Council.—We have set a target date of 1992 for realizing one of the Community's original goals: the creation of a genuine Common Market without barriers to trade between its members.
The Single European Act agreed at Luxembourg brings up to date the Treaty of Rome. Britain was among the first to ratify the Act. (Applause)
I hope that the other Member States will do so very soon so that it can enter into force on 1 January 1987.
We have made a determined effort to see that the Community counts for more in foreign policy and in the strengthening of the open world trading system.
These achievements have been matched by important changes in people's attitudes towards the Community. There is, I believe, a more down-to-earth approach, an understanding that the Community is not an intellectual concept but an institution to serve our citizens. That in turn has produced in governments a welcome determination to concentrate on practical goals. One consequence in Britain is that debate about whether [end p164] we should belong to the Community has been replaced by lively discussion of how to improve its working. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
Mr President, we can take pride in the distance travelled. But we must also remember how far we still have to go. The Community is now launching itself on a course for the 1990s, a course which must make it possible for Europe to compete on equal terms with the United States and Japan. As individual countries we have the talent, we have the skills, we have the resourcefulness. What we need are strengths which we can only find together. We must be stronger in new technologies. We must have the full benefit of a single large market. We must have policies for sustained economic growth. We must have a strategy for encouraging enterprise which will create new jobs. We must face together the problems which we can only tackle effectively together—problems such as terrorism, drugs and AIDS.
We must also adapt old policies to suit the changing times, so that they are not an unnecessary drain on Europe's vitality or its resources. This means above all action to deal with agricultural surpluses and to put agriculture on a more stable footing for the future. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
As recently as 1980 the Global 2000 Report to the President, produced for President Carter, concluded that world demand for food would increase steadily for 20 years, that world production would fall and that real food prices would double. Not for the first time the forecasters were proved wrong. Demand has grown as fast as the Global 2000 report anticipated. But supply has grown much faster in response to high support prices in Europe and more widely in response to technical improvement in yields.
The problem today is unmarketable surpluses. Half the Community's total budget goes not for support which directly helps the farmer, but on storage and disposal of these surpluses. At the same time, those surpluses depress world prices and remove the incentive for farmers in developing countries to produce the food those countries need. That was no part of the original concept of the common agricultural policy. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
We cannot as a Community, any more than as a family, escape difficult choices between priorities. We all accept the need to preserve the health and vitality of the rural community and the prosperity of Europe's countryside …
—I am giving Mr Paisley who is continuing to disrupt the sitting a second and final warning. If he does not desist, I shall order him to be expelled from the sitting.(Applause)
—I have a right to speak on that! You know that, Mr President!
—Pursuant to Article 68 of the Rules of Procedure I propose to the House that with immediate effect, Mr Paisley be excluded for the remainder of the sitting. (Applause)
That is agreed.
Pursuant to Article 70 of the Rules of Procedure, I suspend the sitting.(The sitting was suspended at 10.05 a.m. and resumed at 10.15 a.m)
—Prime Minister, I apologise for the incident which has just occurred. I am very sorry.
I also apologise to all our colleagues who simply wish to hear the President-in-Office of the European Council continue her speech.
President-in-Office of the European Council.—Mr President, thank you very much for your supreme kindness and courtesy.
We were talking a few moments ago about difficult decisions which have to be made about the common agricultural policy. Of course we all accept the need to preserve the health and vitality of a rural Community and the prosperity of Europe's countryside but we have to do so in ways which make more sensible use of the very large resources that we are devoting to the common agricultural policy. At present we have an absurd situation where farm incomes decrease while budgetary costs increase. I am pleased that the European Parliament has added its voice to those calling for essential reforms to make agriculture more responsive to the needs of the marketplace and to see that money spent goes to the farmer and is not dissipated on surpluses. The message which President Pflimlin sent to me last week and to which I drew attention in the European Council was timely and welcome.
It is no good believing that decisions will become easier if we postpone them. There are no easy decisions. We have to take hard decisions and take them soon, or events will overtake us and the money will run out. Then, instead of well-ordered decisions for a coherent policy, we risk seeing a disorderly retreat into a series of national measures. [end p165]
At the European Council last week the Jacques DelorsPresident of the Commission informed Heads of State and Government of the work which the Commission is preparing on the financing of the Community, on the common agricultural policy and on cohesion. It was agreed that Mr Delors would visit capitals in order to report further on this work and on the possible options for action. In the meantime, Mr President, the European Council agreed that work must continue and decisions be taken in the specialist councils. Both the Presidency and the European Parliament are looking to the Agriculture Council now in session.
We have in front of us another crucial item of unfinished business—a Community budget for 1987—on which my colleague was speaking when I came in. I recall the exemplary cooperation between the Council and Parliament which enabled us to reach agreement on the 1986 budget within 10 days of the beginning of our Presidency. I hope that together we may be equally successful this week about agreeing a budget for 1987.
The priority of the United Kingdom Presidency has been to make the Community work better for the benefit of individual citizens. Some may say that we have our eyes too much on the ground rather than on the distant horizons. But you do not reach the distant horizons unless you build solid ground on which to tread. It was consistent with the priority for our Presidency which I have just described, that we concentrated discussion at the London European Council last week as much on possible on down-to-earth topics leading to actions of direct and practical benefit to our individual citizens.
The European Council launched a new programme for business and jobs; this programme holds the key for making the Community the major force for growth in the 1990s that it was in the 1960s. We agreed that the growth of business and enterprise is essential to tackle the scourge of unemployment particularly long-term and youth unemployment. We therefore agreed first, on more help to the small and medium-scale firms which are so often the engine of economic growth. We agreed on the need for help to set up new small firms and improve their access to new technology. As one way of providing this we welcome the new loan facility agreed by Finance Ministers last month which will be worth 1½ billion ECU and which is specially intended to assist small and medium-sized businesses. We also endorsed in principle the Commission's proposal to increase the VAT threshold and to simplify VAT on small business.
Second, we urged further efforts to free firms from unnecessary burdens, so that they can develop, expand and take on new people. We welcomed the steps which the Commission have introduced to assess the impact of all new Community proposals and regulations on business. Third, we called for the adoption of an action plan for employment growth. We are increasingly following similar economic policies directed to promoting inflation-free growth. That must be the main instrument for creating new jobs. But we agreed that we should take some specific steps to ensure people are given the skills and training they need to get jobs, to help the long-term unemployed back into jobs, to promote self-employment, small firms and cooperatives and to improve the working of the labour market. We also decided to speed up efforts to remove the remaining barriers to trade between Member States. We noted that significant steps had already been taken, including for example, the adoption of an important directive to liberalize certain capital transactions.
Before the Council I had written to all Heads of Government asking them to help us break the deadlock on a package of 13 measures before the Internal Market Council. Im am greatful that they responded positively to that appeal. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
In consequence, nine measures were agreed at that Council and the European Council gave instructions which should result in agreement on all or most of the remainder, including public purchasing and telecommunications equipment. The European Council also called for substantial further progress on transport policy including a Community policy on civil aviation encouraging greater competition between airlines and improved services to their customers. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
Our citizens should be able to travel around Europe as cheaply as American citizens can travel around the United States. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
Lack of progress in the Community has already led some of us to make bilateral arrangements to enable our people to enjoy lower air fares which in turn stimulate more business and more jobs. Finally, the Council recognized that strengthening the open world trading system on the basis of a fair balance of rights and obligations is crucial to achieving more jobs and more growth. We noted that the Community has already initiated action against Japan in the GATT on its barriers to trade. That action may need to be reinforced unless we see early results.
Mr President, 70 years ago Europe had just experienced, on the battlefields of Verdun and the Somme, the bloodiest fighting, the most tragic waste of a generation, that the world has even known. The Second World War was to bring further heartbreak and destruction. Our Community was conceived and constructed to ensure that this experience would never be repeated, to bring about a lasting peace within Western Europe, to replace antagonism with friend [end p166] ship and cooperation, to deepen and broaden Europe's democratic tradition. Today we face a threat to our way of life and to our democratic principles from a new form of attack, more insidious, but no less deadly than those that have shaken Europe for centuries. I refer to terrorism. It has struck indiscriminately at one country after another in the Community. It can strike anywhere. No country is immune. It is vital that we act together in our common defence as we did successfully in the case of Syria. The Council, therefore, agreed on three key principles to guide our battle against terrorism and those who sponsor it. There must be no concessions under duress to terrorists or their sponsors. (Mixed reactions)
There must be improved police and intelligence cooperation and exchange of information to prevent terrorism and to bring the guilty to justice. Terrorist attacks against any one Member State should be regarded as an attack against all and met with a united response. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
It is vital, in dealing with terrorism, to match our actions to our words. Words come easily. Action may carry a cost. (Interruptions from the left)
That is why I regard our agreement to stand firm in the face of terrorism and to take action against those who perpetrate it as a significant step forward. There must be no question of saying that an act of terrorism in Britain is a problem for Britain alone to deal with, or that terrorism in France is a problem for the French to handle or similarly with Germany or Italy or Spain. Any country or terrorist group that may contemplate terrorism against any Member State of the European Community must now know that it faces the united determination of us all. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
We have therefore agreed on steps to ensure more effective arrangements for extradition, practical cooperation to deal with theft and forgery of passports and intensified cooperation against illegal immigration and against abuse of the right of asylum. Only by strengthening controls at the Community's external frontiers in this way can we safely press ahead with simplifying frontier procedures within the Community. We want free movement for our citizens but not for terrorists or other criminals.
Heads of Government also spent time on three pressing health and social issues—drug abuse, cancer and AIDS. On drugs the European Council agreed on specific measures to be taken in cooperation with the Council of Europe and with other countries involved to attack every link in the drug chain. They include support for producer countries' own efforts to end production of drugs, joint action to thwart illegal trafficking and to bring the guilty to justice, sharing experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders, and coordination of legal action to ensure that the assets of someone convicted of drug trafficking in one country will be liable to confiscation anywhere else in the Community. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
The European Council in The Hague had already put in hand Community action against cancer which kills around 700 000 people in our countries each year. On this occasion we further decided to launch a Cancer Information Year in 1989 to spread knowledge about the prevention, early warning and treatment of the disease. We also considered the disturbing and increasing threat to public health in all our countries from AIDS. Each one of us is taking steps at national level to try to halt its spread. We decided to organize a concerted exchange of information between the Member States so that we can all benefit from each other's knowledge, making sure we learn more about prevention and, I hope, about treatment. We agreed to consider what further cooperative measures, including cooperation in research, might be taken.
As is traditional, Heads of Governments and Foreign Ministers discussed a number of issues in political cooperation. We had a thorough discussion of East-West relations and arms control. Those of us whose countries are members of the NATO Alliance have recently set out our views in the communiqué of the NATO Defence Ministers meeting. We all agreed that East-West relations are not just a matter of arms control. In particular, human rights are an essential factor in building confidence between East and West.
At the Vienna Conference, reviewing compliance with the Helsinki Final Act, we are insisting on a thorough review of how each country has respected its commitments to human rights. In some cases it is a sad story. We know the plight of those in the Soviet Union who argue not to overthrow the system but simply for the implementation of what was agreed in Helsinki. Yuri Orlov has emerged from nine years' imprisonment to tell us himself of his bitter experiences. People like Mr Orlov cannot speak out in the Soviet Union. But the Twelve can speak up for them, and we must do so in Vienna during the coming weeks. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
We also recalled the Soviet Union's shameful occupation of Afghanistan, now reaching the end of its seventh year. We once more called on the Soviet Union to end the agony of the Afghan people, including the four million Afghans who have been forced to flee their country, by a rapid and complete withdrawal of Soviet forces. (Applause from the centre and from the right) [end p167]
Mr President, within the institutions of the European Community there may be an inclination to see relations with the United States through the prism of commercial disputes. Certainly, they are important, and we must stand up strongly for Europe's interests when they are threatened.
But Europe must also take a wider view. There are new hopes and prospects for reducing nuclear weapons. But we must ensure that they are realized without damage to Europe's security. The shared American-European experience of the war years is moving steadily further into the past. The new generations on both sides of the Atlantic are less influenced by the memory of wartime cooperation. Yet the habit of working together across the Atlantic has never been more necessary than it is now.
Over the past few years we have seen the United States regain its confidence and pride and offer once again strong leadership in defence of our democratic values. We should never fail to give thanks for the outstanding generosity which leads the United States to keep 330 000 servicemen and their families in Europe. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
We must not forget either that anything which weakens America weakens Europe and the whole free world.
My conclusion is that in building the European Community we must not only look inwards to our own institutions and policies but also outwards to building up the Atlantic relationship. And let us never forget that the aftermath of war produced two great ideas which have shaped our destiny ever since. One was the NATO Alliance, the other the European Community. (Applause from the centre and from the right)
Mr President, I shall conclude by quoting some words from a remarkable speech by President von Weizsäcker to both Houses of Parliament in London earlier this year. Speaking of our European Community he said:
‘We have still not fulfilled the expectations, nor have we exhausted our potentialities. But they exist. The Americans urge the Europeans to use their weight and act in cohesion. The people of central and eastern Europe place their hopes in us. The Third World depends on us Europeans meeting our share of the responsibility for their well-being.’
Yet he went to:
‘We still seem to lack the courage of our own convictions. But if we really take our convictions seriously and think of our children's future, why shouldn't that courage come?’
Mr President, it is a mark of how far we have come within Europe that a British Prime Minister should stand before the European Parliament and use the words of a German President. (Applause)
I would like to see us find that courage, courage to face up not only to the challenges within our societies, such as unemployment, and the challenges to our societies from outside, such as terrorism and drugs, but also the challenge of realizing our common European strength to ensure the further spread of democracy and freedom and justice in the wider world.
I hope that the British Presidency and the London European Council have taken us a further step down that road.(Sustained applause)
—Thank you Prime Minister for having undertaken to report in person on the work of the European Council in London. The House is grateful to you.
President of the Commission.—(FR) Mr President of the European Parliament, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, my speech will, in the nature of things, be complementary to the exhaustive account of the European Council meeting in London given by Mrs Thatcher. I merely wish to report to you on the modest contribution that the Commission tried to make to the success of this meeting. I shall not be expanding on the Commission's feelings. There are some grounds for satisfaction, and some for disillusionment. Only moderate satisfaction, moreover, but it would be out of place to complain now, because if the construction of Europe is not making fast progress, it is the fault of everyone, including the Commission no doubt.
I therefore simply wish to begin by telling you about the efforts made by the Commission to assist achievement of the three priorities set by the British Presidency at the start of its term, following which I shall give details of the points on which the Commission lodged appeals, if I may put it that way, before the European Council so as to draw the attention of the Heads of State or Government to dossiers which, in the absence of decisions, would compromise the steady progress and balance of the construction of Europe. Finally, I shall have a few words to say about the tour of European capitals that the Heads of State or Government asked the Commission to make.
As indicated by the British Prime Minister, the three priorities of the British Presidency were security and freedom of the citizen, fresh impetus for the process of completing the internal market, and practical action— [end p168] I stress the word practical—to combat unemployment.
On the first point, security and freedom of the citizen, it is self-evident that the initiatives taken by the British Presidency have ranged far beyond the competence of the Community, and therefore of the Commission. We have nevertheless tried to add our modest contribution. In the case of drugs, the Commissioner responsible, Lord Cockfield, has devised a system for cooperation between customs services whereby information can be distributed and the efficiency of action against this scourge enhanced. As regards cancer, even though the Community has no competence in the health sphere, I find that there is considerable satisfaction to be derived from the initiative taken almost a year ago by Presidents Craxi and Mitterrand when they appointed 12 very senior professors of medicine to bring forward recommendations, these recommendations being supported, of course, by the Commission. There we have, I believe, the foundation for effective action during Cancer Information Year, which close cooperation among the Member States will make all the more effective.
However, returning to the domestic problems which are within the Commission's province, I wish to pick out one essential idea in particular: by trying to scale down the role of physical barriers within the Community and shifting the emphasis in controls to our external frontiers, the British Presidency has made a signal contribution towards completion of the internal market. If we had focused on the internal frontiers—and there were very important, cogent reasons for doing so, including the need to combat terrorism and drug trafficking—a permanent obstacle might have been put in the way of completion of the internal market. There is therefore a link, in the Commission's conception, between the objectives of freedom and security for the citizen and the more prosaic one of translating the internal market into reality. (Applause)
Secondly, progress towards completion of the internal market. With the impetus given by the British Prime Minister herself, the last Internal Market Council meeting was able to adopt directives which had previously been held up by minor but stubborn difficulties. I hope that the Internal Market Council will be able to meet again before the end of December, in accordance with the European Council's expressed wish, and more especially that it will be able to adopt texts which are not devoid of content. I am thinking in particular of the text on public supply contracts. In my opinion, for what it is worth, opening up public contracts, adopting common standards and liberalizing capital markets are three courses essential to the credibility of our efforts on behalf of business and other economic agents. It is also encouraging that in air transport, with the impetus given by the European Council, and in insurance, following the Court of Justice ruling, considerable progress in developing the internal market is going to be possible.
The third of these priorities is the campaign against unemployment: ‘business and jobs’, with two very practical lines of action, one concerned with small and medium-sized businesses, the other with unemployment.
In the case of small and medium-sized businesses, the Commission had done its job, I believe, and you had an opportunity to judge for yourselves, since we sent you the document that was to be submitted to the European Council. In particular, I hope that it will be possible during the first quarter of next year for the Council to adopt the proposals for directives concerning the VAT threshold and simplification of the system as applied to small and medium-sized businesses. Since these arrangements are partly optional, I cannot see why certain States would continue to oppose a text which could have a major influence on the propensity to create and develop small businesses.
With regard to the campaign against unemployment, I have to acknowledge that there are divergences between Member States and also between the British Presidency and the Commission. For my own part, I feel that, if action in this field is to be really effective, it is necessary to get the cooperative strategy for growth under way, intensify social dialogue—an area where we have in point of fact achieved some progress during this half-year—and, finally, place the emphasis on long-term unemployment, along the lines of the specific proposals that we made to the European Council. That concludes my comments on the British Presidency's three priorities.
Of course, the European Council, as the Commission sees it, is also a body responsible for assessing progress in the construction of Europe and stimulating further action. On three points, frankly, some of the results of recent Council meetings have been disappointing. I refer to the cooperative strategy for growth, the multiannual research and technology programme, and Erasmus, a student exchange programme of modest dimensions.
The European Council addressed itself to these three points and saw fit to send a signal to the various Councils. In the case of the cooperative strategy for growth, the Commission will report every three months to the Finance Ministers who, I hope, can be prevailed upon to come out of their isolation and do something other than pay lip service to this text without doing anything about it. (Applause)
I should like to point out that if this cooperative strategy for growth had been put into effect a year ago we could have looked forward—and this can be demonstrated—to an extra point on the growth rate in [end p169] 1987, which would have meant an appreciable fall in unemployment. Moreover, we would have given a measure of hope to the developing countries, since every additional point on the growth rate in Europe will be reflected by stronger growth in the developing countries. But it is never too late to do the right thing. (Applause)
Where the research and technology programme was concerned, we could not ask the Heads of State or Government to concern themselves with the figures, but we simply wanted them to make clear that this was a priority matter. At the risk of wearing myself out, I repeat that the Commission expects to be treated with dignity over this issue. (Applause)
When we submitted this programme, on which Parliament has done a great deal of work, for which I thank it, I was immediately told: ‘You are asking for 7.7 billion, so we can agree on 3 or 4 billion’. I reject this way of going about things. The Commission did not open the bidding at 10 with a view to agreeing terms at 5. (Applause)
The Research Ministers are meeting today, and I have asked the Commission to authorize me to withdraw the text if the response remains on this tack. (Applause)
Coming to the third point, Erasmus, the European Council gave consideration to this scheme also. Here again, I have to mention that education, like health, is outside the range of Community competence, as we know. But this student exchange programme does fall within the scope of what we have termed ‘People's Europe’, a priority theme adopted by the European Council at several of its meetings.
What is the object of the exercise? It involves making the modest sum of 175 m ECU available for the purpose of facilitating cooperation between university vice-chancellors, and promoting and funding bursaries enabling students to pursue their studies at various universities in different Member States.
I hope that the General Affairs Council will reach a favourable conclusion on this minor problem at its meeting next Monday and Tuesday. But we cannot settle for what has been suggested to us, the first part only of the Erasmus programme, namely cooperation between university vice-chancellors, with no action on the second part, bursaries to promote student exchanges. If this meeting holds back and refers the matter to an Education Council, we shall be no further forward six months hence and the 25 m ECU that you entered in the 1987 budget will go begging. This is a good illustration of the drawbacks of the Community's piecemeal decision-making process, given that there is no Council responsible for drawing all the strands together, which would make for more effective results. (Applause)
I turn now to the third point discussed by the British Prime Minister, which I shall define, modestly, as the conditions required for effective application of the Single Act. The Member States, let it not be forgotten, entered into commitments in a Single Act, an expression that no one understands. Let us call it a ‘European Act’ modifying the Treaty of Rome. At the British Prime Minister's request, I had the opportunity to present an analysis of the problems facing the Community. I have not made any mention of this so far, not even at the British Prime Minister's press conference, but I should like, since you are elected parliamentarians, to outline the Commission's analysis for you. It will only take a moment. We can go into more detail later.
First, on the financial side, the Community needs a system adequate for the purposes of carrying the Single Act through, and that means a stable, guaranteed system. The guarantees must be extended to the countries which contribute most as well as to others. In a way, it is a matter of setting limits, over a period of 7 to 8 years, on the financial calls that are made on European citizens, so that we would be placing ourselves under a duty to make better use of resources.
The day of resorting to expedients to produce an apparently balanced budget are over. Such expedients can no longer be used, they are no longer adequate, whether we are talking about the accumulating agricultural stocks, the wide gap between commitment appropriations and payment appropriations, or the carry-over of the year's budget deficit to the next, as we are once again going to see this year. That is just saving face. These methods, these expedients, no longer measure up to the situation. (Applause)
Secondly, the worldwide situation in agriculture. Because of our position in the world, we have no option but to undertake reform of the common agricultural policy on a more drastic scale, whether we like it or not, because the situation worldwide is as it is, and it is not in our power to remodel it as we please. Of course, as I gladly acknowledge, progress has been made over the past four years, since 1984. Had it not been for the reforms that have been made, the cost of the agricultural policy this year would have been 4 m ECU more than it has been. But this is not enough. Why not? Because the volume of supply is constantly expanding while demand remains stable. If we go on like this, we are going to lose credit, not only commercially but politically as well, with countries [end p170] in the Third World and also with the other agricultural producer countries. (Applause)
We cannot on the one hand make fine speeches about having spearheaded the success of the Punta del Este meeting and on the other hand ignore the need to put our own affairs in order as far as agriculture is concerned. That is unacceptable, in terms of the Community's image and its political influence in the world as well. (Applause)
Finally, the third dimension: cohesion. I'm sorry, but I have to be blunt about this. Cohesion was central to the discussions among the Heads of State or Government, more so than had been anticipated no doubt. The fact is that, with the Single Act, we now have a choice between two formulas, or rather three: the first is a free-trade area in name only, with each country hanging on to its privileges; next there is a real free-trade area, but one with redistribution of budget resources to offset the hardship caused to the more backward countries; the third option, which is embodied in the Single Act and is the only sure course towards achievement of the European Union, is a common economic space. It is along the lines of this last opinion that the Commission is working. Naturally, this presupposes extensive recasting of policy on the structural funds. (Applause)
I have been asked to undertake a tour of Community capitals. This makes no change whatsoever to the Commission's institutional role, nor does it have any effect on Parliament's powers, but I am looking on this mission as that of a mediator trying to ensure that countries do not publicy adopt unduly entrenched positions and do not plunge the Community back into one of those periods of lethargy that have regrettably punctuated its history.
The Commission is getting on with its work. It will have completed its broad guidelines, with a limited range of options, by the end of the year, as planned, and I shall then seek meetings in the various capitals, the working methods for which will be as chosen by each Prime Minister or each Council chairman, so that I shall either go alone or be accompanied by appropriate colleagues, according to Member States' preference.
However, I can immediately announce that I shall be making contact with the President of Parliament and the Enlarged Bureau in order to bring you into this collective review of the situation, but I must stress the need for discretion in these consultations: it would be quite wrong for the spirit that prompted this mission to be destroyed by ill-considered words. But Parliament will, I assure you, be involved in this process.(Applause)
—(DE) Mr President, a point of order: I would merely ask that you take this opportunity on behalf of us all of congratulating the Commission President, Mr Delors, on his reappointment. Our congratulations are also due to the Vice-President and to the Prime Minister as President-in-Office of the Council for her choice in making this appointment.
—Thank you, Mr Rogalla.
I am certain, Mr Delors, that the whole House joins in congratulating you. For my part, I am most happy to do so.(Applause)
—(FR) Mr President, during yesterday's discussion of the agenda I expressed the hope that the President of the Commission, Mr Jacques Delors, would brief us on the matter of the negotiations on maize and other products that the Commission has entered upon with the United States. The whole of today's debate has pointed to the importance of agriculture and related matters. I feel that it would be desirable for us to be given information. I hope that it will be forthcoming during this debate.
—The Commission will provide this information when it sees fit to do so.
Barón Crespo (S).
—(ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first I would like to say, on behalf of the Socialist Group, that we deplore the incident that occurred at the start of this session. Parliamentary rules must be scrupulously observed; the Socialists are committed to that.
Madam President-in-Office of the European Council, the results of the London Summit were eagerly awaited by my group. We were expecting a firm response from the European Council to the problems currently facing the Community, which would help map out its long-term future at a time when new perspectives are opening up. We expected leadership from the Summit; leadership needed to respond to such urgent matters as the budget, agriculture, socio-economic cohesion, the implementation of the Single Act and the confirmation of Mr Delors as President of the European Commission. And we also expected to see international problems defined.
So it is not surprising that our anticipation turned into disappointment. The Summit's one definite decision [end p171] was to confirm Mr Delors as President. On behalf of my group may I warmly congratulate him and assure him and his colleagues of our best wishes for the tour about to start. I hope it will not be an Odyssey, because you have not even given him the money to travel round the capitals of the Member States. On behalf of my group, I ally myself with what the President of the Commission said about Parliament because I believe that what is needed here is mediation and initiative, not begging.
The lack of top-level decisions—I am quoting the Financial Times—and the evasion of such fundamental questions as relations between Europe and the United States, casts serious doubt on the success of the Summit.
On 28 November last the President-in-Office of the Council met with about 40 British Conservative Members and promised to renew the fight for reform of the CAP at the Summit. Mrs Thatcher's total unanimity with the views of the Members, who proposed radical measures, was actually announced by my honourable colleague, Sir Henry Plumb himself.
What circumstances caused you to go back on that commitment? How can Members of Parliament vote for the 1987 budget when we know there will be a deficit of over 4 000 million ECU and the Commission has already been asked to prepare a supplementary budget for the spring? Will our resources continue to be frozen? Are the Fontainebleau mechanisms being reviewed?
Apparently the price of avoiding controversy at the Summit was an ‘ostrich policy’. It is alleged that lack of adequate preparation was the cause. Perhaps that is true. But Parliament had completed its work. Its task was done.
During the October part-session Parliament approved two reports. One, presented by my fellow group member, Mrs Hoff, was on policy for surpluses, proposing emergency measures. I had the honour of defending the other, on future financing, which demonstrated the need to rely on our own resources, to achieve a thorough reform of agricultural policy and to create a special fund for liquidating the surpluses.
At the first reading of the 1987 Budget, Parliament pointed out the practical consequences of both reports in serious amendments. On the same lines, the Committee on the Budget, meeting on 3 December, stressed the urgency of a decision on the matter to the Council. The only response from the Summit has been to put back these burning issues to a later date. The Committee's excellent comments and suggestions are not being converted into reality by the Community.
These delaying tactics are irresponsible. Parliament has to vote on a 1987 budget which includes excessive agricultural costs without even an indication from the Council about how the necessary funds can be provided. This means that the uncontainable pressure of agricultural costs will continue to push structural costs to one side and displace development aid.
Meanwhile, the debate on economic and social cohesion, the key to the survival of the Community, has also been postponed. This is difficult for someone like me from a new Member State to understand. How can European union advance if the means of achieving unity are denied and what increases differences is encouraged. At least in one respect the destruction has been recognized.
In its statement, the Summit recognizes that progress towards the reduction of unemployment and the convergence of standards of living has been less than satisfactory. However, apart from the usual tired litany of prescriptions, no serious measures at Community level have been added. Some Member States have rightly defended a strategy of economic growth which includes an increase in public spending as a means of creating employment. These are not only States with Socialist governments.
My group identifies with such positions as those expressed by the Christian Democrat Prime Ministers of the Benelux countries who have laid down a common strategy for reinforcing the three specific points defended by the Brussels Commission. First, the transformation of the Community into a large internal market does not just mean making it a free trade area; complementary and parallel measures for economic and social cohesion must be set in motion. Similarly, the employment problem will not be solved by simple liberalization of the labour market, but both the social dialogue and the strategy of cooperation approved by all the representatives of European industry must be maintained. In this connection it should be pointed out that the Council's decision to encourage cooperation between the representatives of industry was seen to be belied by the President-in-Office of the Council's unprecedented refusal to meet with European Trade Unionists before the summer Summit. (Applause from the left)
We agree that research and technology are crucial to the creation of employment and we therefore welcome the Council's statement in this respect. However, if the Presidency, together with France and the Federal Republic of Germany, will only commit 3 000 million ECU to this project when it already costs 5 500 million ECU to maintain programmes in progress—like RACE, Esprit and Brite—one may be permitted to doubt the sincerity of such intentions. What about the Erasmus programme? In my opinion it is the best example of pragmatic, practical action that exists in the Community, precisely because it is aimed at the young Europeans who will create tomorrow's Europe. (Applause) [end p172]
As a consequence of the position the Council has adopted, this programme is an empty agreement, because its funding has been blocked.
The difference between desire and reality is apparent in yet another area. To our surprise, the Council spoke of real progress in the protection of the environment, thanks to Community action. Such optimism could only be understood if the catastrophes of Chernobyl and the Rhine had not been mentioned at the Summit. It is essential that the Community establish contingency plans and programmes to produce effective joint action.
My group welcomes the statements on the fight against terrorism, drugs, cancer and AIDS. Parliament has repeatedly expressed itself on the need for cooperation on these issues, and also on the urgent need to provide real funds for dealing with them.
As regards foreign policy, Mr President, we approve the Council's statement on Afghanistan, but at the same time we are concerned about the total absence of any reference to the other political problems on the international scene. It is as if the Council had suffered a sudden amnesia about such urgent matters as the situation in Central America, the Middle East or South Africa, not to mention the question of the Malvinas. (Applause from the left)
The European Community must act as a real protagonist on the world scene, not using the military might at its disposal but acting on the basis of its own economic power and also as an independent mediator between the two superpowers. This is what we did at Helsinki, this is what we did in Madrid, and this is what is going on in Vienna. But to be effective and credible, Europe must be able to speak with one voice, based on internal cohesion and economic power, and if I may be permitted to say so as a citizen of a country which is now a full member of the Community, a country which was not liberated from the bonds of fascism by any allied forces, I believe that the time has come to reinforce the existence of a two-pillar Atlantic Alliance. Europeans cannot accept that there should be a single great pillar which is just given support and operational bases. I do not think this is good either for the United States or for Europe. (Applause from the left)
This was made very clear at the Reykjavik meeting, which showed Europeans that if we cannot put our own house in order the two superpowers will decide our future without consulting us. So it is very regrettable that there was not a clearer message from the Summit on such crucial issues.
To sum up, Mr President, the London Summit was a complete failure. It produced the longest communiqué so far, but with the least content. On the eve of implementation of the Single Act the Council did not even mention such vital issues as majority voting or the Commission's executive powers. There appears to have been no progress on any of the outstanding problems such as the budget, finance—including the need to review the Fontainebleau Agreement and the reform of the structural funds—, employment, the environment and the political role of the Community in the world.
The Socialist Group and the European Parliament remain prepared to act in accordance with the European vision and to look towards the future. However, an intergovernmental Europe, conceived as a kind of Conservative ‘Holy Alliance’ has no credibility. What the Community needs is leadership, because Europe is a project founded on convictions and mutual interests, not just a souk where dealers haggle.
Madam President of the European Council, in 1979 in Dublin you showed that your attitude to Europe consisted of asking for your money back. In 1985 in Milan you were against the Conference which resulted in the European Single Act. Let us hope that if—as is far from desirable—you are again chosen by fate and the British people to speak as President of the Council you will have finally been converted to the cause of Europe. But for the moment, as far as the Socialist Group is concerned, I have to say that the London Summit has clearly demonstrated how lacking this leadership—which Europe badly needs—has been for the last six months, and therefore we cannot approve this report by the President of the Council.(Sustained applause)
—(NL) Mr President, in late 1981 Prime Minister Thatcher said here in the European Parliament: ‘I shall report back to you in five year's time.’ She has kept her word. That was a gracious farewell, and I therefore wonder why it was not possible for the leaders of the European trade union movement to be given a gracious reception in London.
The big questions, the common agricultural policy and Community financing, were avoided in London. It therefore seems slightly ironical that we should now hear a long tirade on the excesses of the common agricultural policy, when they were not discussed in London, and yet when a report is made on the London meeting here, they are discussed. That is rather ironical. (Applause)
Why, Mrs Thatcher, was Community financing not discussed in London? Were you perhaps afraid that a decision to raise the Community's share of VAT to 1.6%; would threaten your own repayment arrangement? These two matters were after all linked in Fontainebleau. If that is the case, it does not square with [end p173] your reputation for not being afraid to tackle difficult problems. (Applause)
We welcome the fact, Mrs Thatcher, that such subjects as terrorism, drugs and the spread of AIDS were discussed at the European Council meeting. These are threats to the whole world, and they deserve to be considered by the Community. We also see here something of the widening of the scope that British membership of the Community can and must mean for Europe.
The US-Israel-Iran question was discussed at length in London. But there is nothing about this in the communiqué. I feel there should have been, at least for the sake of public opinion. It ought to have been possible to find some acceptable, unemotional words that told the truth and yet spared the feelings of our American friends and allies.
We are also very grateful to you and the British for your persistent efforts to complete the internal market. You have done some important work in this respect. We also greatly appreciate the commitment of the President of the Budget Council. She has done an excellent job in the last six months.
This was the first British presidency not to have been under the pressure of renegotiating British membership or of demands along the lines of ‘I want my money back.’ That was a good omen. And yet there is something not quite right about Britain's leaders in Europe. What is it? Is it a lack of interest? That does not seem plausible in view of Britain's interest in a Europe that functions smoothly. Is it the special relationship with the United States? I rate your sense of reality too high to believe that a great deal of nostalgia is still invested in that. What is it then? As I see it, Britain's absence from the Community in the 1950s is taking its toll. You were not with us then, and the Community was consequently endowed with a rather French legal structure. That means precise decisions, carefully worded agreements, a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, conscientious preparation and, anathema to the British, strategic planning. Your favourite method of muddling through has no place in this scheme of things.
But you should make this undertaking. Your people in the Permanent Representatives Committee in Brussels are very good at it. They have slowly got wise to it. And your group here in Parliament has also learnt a great deal. They are now working in an international group, with Danes and Spaniards. Their attitude is becoming increasingly European. We Christian Democrats will therefore give Sir Henry Plumb our wholehearted support in his efforts to become President of the European Parliament. (Applause from the centre and right)
Your fellow party members here are performing a very necessary bridging function, for the United Kingdom's integration into Europe. Mrs Thatcher, you can learn a great deal from them, and I hope you will also benefit from their experience here.(Applause from the centre)
IN THE CHAIR: MR DIDÒ
Plumb, Sir Henry (ED).
—Mr President, Madam President-in-Office of the European Council, Mr President of the Commission, colleagues. Madam President, your statement this morning made it absolutely clear that it is important to be practical and realistic about what can and what cannot be achieved by a Council Summit. I am a great believer in giving the right work to the right people. Council Summit meetings should not get bogged down in detail but they should be involved in the outline or the design of new policies and new actions. Heads of State and Heads of Government cannot be expected to do jobs which their ministers should have done, and I am relieved that the outcome of this Summit was in many respects positive and forward looking when others in the past have sometimes been acrimonious and needlessly complicated.
There is no doubt, Madam President, that drugs, terrorism and AIDS are major problems which the EEC has a duty to deal with. It will be noted that these are problems which know no national frontiers. It shows the truth of an observation made often since the founding of the European Community itself. Indeed, the Community should of necessity take responsibility for those actions which are more efficiently performed at European level than at national level. Who can therefore deny the international tragedy of AIDS, which is just such an example? Who can deny that effective action against terrorism must be taken internationally and in the spirit of solidarity? And who can deny that the problem of drug abuse affects young people and families all over the world? I hope that the agreements reached by the Council in these areas are the beginning of a genuine common European approach and that they are not just symbols of a vague desire to work together. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
As regards international terrorism, it is heartening to be able to acknowledge the Council's firm contribution to the defence of our citizens. There should be no concessions to terrorists or to their sponsors whether under duress or not. Madam President, I welcome the Council's determination to achieve lasting results in [end p174] the fight against unemployment. Job creation measures on their own cannot work without an easing of the restrictions and the red tape which bedevil the job-creating sectors of the economy. The real jobs of the future will come from the private sector and the small business sector of a unified European market. In this respect the progress to a common internal market by 1992 must be, as you have said yourself on a number of occasions, speeded up. I particularly welcome the valuable decisions made by the Internal Market Council at the beginning of this month.
Mr Delors, you recognized the importance of the framework programme for research and technology as an essential factor in achieving the internal market. I hope we can make progress in that direction. (Applause)
The objective of achieving real reductions in the unemployment levels of Member States will be greatly helped if the internal market is established together with an adequate programme of public investment in the poorer regions of the Community. This is why this Parliament is so keen on the abolition of petty non-tariff barriers between the Member States. We know it makes sense, it makes dollars and it makes ECU. It also makes pounds for our industries and for our people. But a real common market in Europe has to be accompanied by the establishment of a real financial and monetary market and we welcome the further liberalization of capital transactions decided last month. Who would now deny that there is strength in monetary cooperation? My group regrets the absence of sterling from the exchange rate mechanism. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
This Parliament believes that this absence is a major obstacle in the way of the European monetary system developing its full potential in the interests of the European economy overall. If we had got on the bus then, I believe our momentum would make the bus move faster. (Cries of ‘Hear, bear!’ from the European Democratic Group)
The twin problems of agricultural spending and the Community budget hardly appear in the final communiqué and I have to say that this will please neither the European farmer nor the European consumer. But I fully agree with the President-in-Office's point that the cost of storing unwanted surpluses is of no direct benefit to the farmer and it is a heavy burden on the taxpayer, and our concern in this respect must be the well-being of the rural economy. The Community will never progress if we have to wait for a perfect moment from everyone's point of view. Member States must be courageous enough to take decisions in the interests of Europe and not in the interests of national lobbies.
Mr President, I believe that nothing is gained if nothing is ventured. I am pleased that the UK Presidency has been able to report some successes. If there are some who feel that more could have been done, then let them join with us in this Parliament maintaining our pressure on the Council through the rolling programme to ensure that the gains of the last few years are not lost and that the Council realizes the force of our resolution and the dynamism of our institutional objectives. We in Parliament must take immediate advantage of the Single Act as soon as it is implemented. We may have to adapt our procedures in order to take advantage of the opportunities that we are given by this Act, and I look forward to the continuation of effective Community action in the forthcoming partnership of Parliament and the Council. I have always believed that the Community will evolve on a momentum created by its own successes. I am sure I speak for most people in this Parliament when I urge the Council to ensure that this momentum is not only maintained but that it is accelerated so that the Community can put into practice the inspiring words of the solemn declaration on European union of Stuttgart over three years ago, namely, that members of the Community exercise their will to transform the whole complex of relations between their States into a European union.
Madam President-in-Office, we must never lose sight of that ultimate goal.(Applause from the centre and from the right)
—Mr President, I might not have heard it properly in translation since I was trying to improve my languages, but I wonder if Sir Henry could repeat the passage of his speech about the parental leave directive which I recall was the one thing he asked the British Government to do during its Presidency. I must have missed it in translation. I am sure he would not have omitted to mention it.
Plumb, Sir Henry(ED).
—Mr President, if Mr Balfe was asleep during my speech, that is no fault of mine.
—(IT) Like Mr Barón, Mr President, I too think that the incident that occurred in this Chamber deserves censure, all the more so since what we need here is serious, detailed debates and not the low outbursts of the agitators. (Applause)
Having said this, I will come to the substance of my speech.
In the, now, protracted history of the ‘European Summits’ it is difficult to find a more inconsistent, fruitless and useless Summit than the one that we are discuss [end p175] ing. That is why the emphatic way in which you, Madam President-in-Office-of-the-Council, have praised the results is so astonishing. What results are there to speak of? ‘When European Heads of State meet they should be able to raise their sights and produce ideas which will help to shape the future of the Community. That was the original idea behind the European Council. It is not being upheld’. These are not my words. As you well know, Prime Minister, they are the words of an authoritative newspaper in your country—the Financial Times. For my part I can add that on problems of more immediate concern also, there was a general lack of success. I do not know if that was what President Delors was referring to when he said that the grounds for satisfaction are pretty slim. However that may be, in my opinion there is comfort to be found in another pronouncement of the London economic daily, which says: ‘No attempt was made by the participants to deal with the two major problems looming on the immediate horizon, those of Community financing, and agricultural reform. Mr Penders also pointed it out, albeit in a contradictory speech. Even a research programme for 7 700 million ECU, proposed by the Commission, was not approved and, on the contrary, was referred back to the attention of the Ministers. And then, let no one say that agreement was reached on the decisive question of employment. We are glad that the document that the British government had prepared on the basis of its own conception of flexibility and, in practice, deregulation, was rejected. The compromise that was reached, which indeed draws attention to the need for dialogue between both sides of industry, cannot in any way be considered satisfactory, because it is couched only in general terms and seems to be an abdication vis-à-vis the fundamental question of growth and work.
What remains, therefore, of the London meeting? It has been called, ironically, the AIDS Summit. We are in no way disposed to go along with that irony, because AIDS is a worrying phenomenon and calls for commitment. However, it is equally well unacceptable for all the propaganda praising the success of the meeting to centre on that question. Moreover, taking up a Summit's time with questions regarding certain financial services, or public tenders, or professional qualifications—with all due respect for these questions, on which, anyway, the decisions appear unsatisfactory—does not seem anything to shout about.
And here we should make a fuller comment regarding not only the London meeting but also the British Presidency of the Council. We shall go into this in greater detail tomorrow. For now, however, may I be allowed to recall that, at the start of the six months' period of office the British talked insistently of getting away from the so-called pro-European Utopias, that were denied, and getting down to much-acclaimed concrete achievements. Well, it would have been easy enough then to prophesy that, on such a basis, little indeed could be achieved: today, we can state with certainty that even pragmatism has given us virtually nothing.
But let us get back to London, where failure is even more obvious on the question of both international policy and political cooperation. Here, Prime Minister, solemn statements on Afghanistan are not sufficient, and, on the other hand, the Commissions are significant. Let us come to the essential point—‘after Reykjavik’ and East-West relations. We all know the facts. The document from the British Presidency, that they wanted to have signed at the last moment, was rejected. In view of its content we are glad it was, and, without beating about the bush, we applaud those who were responsible for its rejection. That spotlights, however, the inconsistency or the absence of Europe—which is something that does not gladden us at all. Let it not be thought, however, that that inconsistency is mainly due to objective divisions that have indeed become apparent. No, the inconsistency is caused by a wrong approach, which you support. It is the approach that denies to Europe—whilst respecting alliances, remember—an initiative of its own for promoting and bringing about détente, disarmament, security and peace. And this causes us grave concern. We do not wish to ask indiscreet questions, but the rumours circulating around the ‘fireside’ discussions in London, and other rumours as well, cannot leave us in a peaceful state of mind.
We need to change direction. You delude yourselves if you think that the Europe of today is the same as the Europe of the past. Many things, not all of them for the best, have happened in recent years. Look at your difficulties and failures in supporting the policy followed for South Africa or the Middle East.
We know that it is hard work affirming new, innovatory, positive, progressive positions and policies. But today Europe and its unity, its freedom and democracy, its development, its employment, its research, its security and its peace are synonymous. We shall fight for these values and, together with other democratic parties of the Left, we shall make them prevail over any conservative tendency. By effectively uniting progressive, pro-European ideals and achievements we shall make them victorious for Europe, for both its present and its future.(Applause from the left)
—(FR) Mr President, like all those who have spoken before me, I can only express great disappointment at the outcome of the European Council meeting in London, to which I would add a serious word of warning to all our governments, represented here by the President of the European Council.
We all know about the external threats to our countries, and about the internal problems currently beset [end p176] ting the Community. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile outlining them very briefly to draw attention—should that be necessary—to the gulf between the seriousness of the situation in Europe, which is bordering on breakdown, and the inadequacy, futility almost, of the European Council's response.
In external affairs, the doubts that have arisen in the wake of the Reykjavik meeting as to whether the Americans are sufficiently aware of European preoccupations and the specific dangers facing us should prompt a concerted European response and a resolve to get ourselves into a position to act together. It is not an adequate response to say that the need to work together on either side of the Atlantic has never been more necessary than today, but it is true that what weakens the United States also weakens Europe and the entire free world.
But who can fail to appeciate that a weak Europe also weakens the free world? Indeed, we know that Japan itself is beginning to get worried about this and to realize that overall balance in the world rests on Europe as well, and starting to regret that Europe is so weak. But it is we who should be the first to be aware of the role that we should be playing and to rebuild our strength and help the free world. I am certainly not unaware of the institutional difficulties which make it impossible as matters stand to adopt a direct approach to certain problems, security problems in particular. Nevertheless, Europe ought to be able to respond and to begin thinking about ways of dealing with these problems. Above all, it ought to demonstrate its determination to strengthen its unity so that it will carry more weight in international relations.
Similarly, who could fail to be bitterly disappointed by the misunderstandings and blunders of one sort and another which, for all the explanations given after the event, have made it clear to the public that our countries do not share the same attitude to terrorism and the countries involved in terrorism? This confusion, coupled with the confusion created in the United States by the revelations about arms sales, has at the very least borne in on us the weakness of the solidarity between one partner and another, the gap between words and actions, but, worst of all, the quick succession of such grave developments prompts the question whether there are not much deeper differences on the policies to be adopted in relation to the Middle East, and more specifically in relation to the countries which are involved to a greater or lesser extent in terrorism. We do not know which country we should be more or less supporting, which course of action we should be taking. What, then, is the point of saying that efforts to combat terrorism are being stepped up when we are so divided on the fundamentals?
Turning now to the Soviet Union, it is again possible to come to the conclusion that we have no overall policy. Does the onslaught of charm betoken a real, profound change in Soviet policy, or is it just a change to a new method, a more dangerous one than those used in the past? That is a matter of concern to our countries, but it is also a matter of very direct concern to Europeans as the Community to have a response on this point, since the Community is the target of these blandishments. At present, both the Commission and Parliament are faced with the question of what type of relations they as Community institutions ought to have with the Soviet Union and the other East European countries. Recognition is of course the crux of the matter, but it is important for our countries to reach an agreed posture on this matter. Is any attention being paid to this, apart from the repeated condemnation—but this is the very least that could be expected—of the occupation of Afghanistan and the violations of human rights, in breach of the undertakings given at Helsinki, bearing in mind the obvious fact that our countries' positions on this essential issue are significantly at variance?
Finally, Europe seems to be less and less concerned with the Third World. I would go so far as to say that it has even given up pretending to be. We are worried about this lack of cohesion, but we are equally if not more worried about the Community's internal difficulties, whether in making progress towards Union by completing the internal market or simply in solving the most immediate problems facing us.
It was just a year ago that the Heads of State or Government reached agreement on the Single Act. Despite its shortcomings, we accepted it. Even at that stage, though, we were already giving warnings about the conditions under which it would have to be applied and about the narrow construction that might be put on the only provisions which represented progress, those on majority voting and Parliament's powers.
No reassurance has been given on this point, either by a Council regulation or indeed by the interpretations of the Single Act by those countries which have ratified it so far. Some have not yet ratified it; this suggests that it might not be brought into effect by the scheduled date, and we are extremely worried about that. At the same time, though, we should like to know whether it is not purely for show that these interpretations have been made and majority voting will in fact be adopted.
I should also like to stress in this connection, Madam, that you have given us certain assurances and even indicated that it was said at the European Council that majority voting should be adopted immediately, without awaiting ratification of the Single Act. This is the approach that has made it possible for 11 directives and regulations of varying importance to be adopted. Nevertheless, this falls far short of the figure in excess of a hundred mooted for 1986. Were we to continue at this rate, it would doubtless take until the year 2000 to clear all this work. [end p177]
Apart from that, though, I have to say that while we welcome the measures taken for small and medium-sized businesses, while we welcome the strategy adopted in certain fields, the shortcomings are glaringly obvious to us. First of all, it has to be pointed out as far as the cooperative strategy for growth is concerned that this approach had already been recommended in the Albert/Ball report and, where unemployment is concerned, the Community has consistently failed to take timely action for the past 10 years. A re-reading of the various European Council resolutions is enough to demonstrate this. They would have been right three years earlier. They were no longer right by the time they materialized.
On technology, let's be frank, if the Council is not going to say yes to 7 billion ECU, we really shall be able to say to the people of Europe: on the one hand, expenditure of 480 billion ECU out of the national budgets; on the other, 7 billion refused by the Community. And they have the gall to talk of a European will to promote technological progress! They have a nerve! The figures speak for themselves. (Applause)
The same applies to Erasmus. Let us hope for an early settlement of this matter, on which my group has incidentally tabled an urgent motion for a resolution.
These are important but secondary matters. Steps have been taken, undertakings given. It remains for concrete action to be taken on them. Worst of all are the fundamental problems which are currently proving very real obstacles to the Community's progress. I refer both to the budget and to the lack of solidarity, the lack of cohesion.
These subjects were avoided. And yet we already have a shortfall of over a billion ECU in 1986. I do not have to be told that we are still in an electoral period. We know that there are going to be elections very shortly in one of the large Member States. But there are always going to be elections in the offing, until we have a united Europe. And there will be plenty more in the months and years ahead. So let us stop constantly putting off solutions. They will become progressively harder to find with the passage of time. Courage will always be needed, but the longer we wait the harder it will be to muster. I nevertheless believe that if the people of Europe, in their various countries, were told the truth, they would be more prepared to accept the compromises that have to be made.
The trouble is that everyone, at all levels, is trying to lie so as to shift all the responsibility onto others. (Applause)
To take the budget: we must have the courage to accept that it does not measure up to our aspirations, or alternatively we must abandon some of these aspirations. We cannot do everything we want to do with funding amounting to about 1%; of our countries' collective GDP. To say that we can is a lie, and deserves to be exposed as such.
We need to rediscover the spirit of Europe. The spirit of Europe was a spirit of solidarity, for that is what the cohesion that the President of the Commission was talking of comes down to. And there will be no building of Europe until such time as we manage to accommodate the concerns of all 12 countries in the Community, all of which have an investment in Europe's survival. Otherwise, we can only take a short-term view, trying to cope with the complex, difficult, dangerous world in which we live, to cope with the international challenges of terrorism, technology, population imbalances, the new scourge of AIDS, and drugs—I apologize for lumping all of these together, for although they are all serious problems, they are very difficult. If we fail to overcome them, if we fail to show not only lucidity and courage but solidarity as well, Europe will cease to exist as a living civilization, worthy of playing its role in the world.
The danger of internal disintegration and stagnation must be met by solidarity, which must find expression in a proper budget and closer union.
We must meet the external threat by having the courage to tackle our security problems, since what is the point of talking about solidarity in relation to the common agricultural policy or the various other problems that we discuss day after day when we are lacking in solidarity where our very existence, the security of each and every one of us, is concerned?(Applause)
—May I, Mr President, express my regret at the misconduct of my fellow Irishman, Mr Paisley, this morning. In its own way it displayed a questionable type of loyalty to Her Majesty's Prime Minister from a sworn Loyalist. May I compliment a number of European Democratic colleagues on quelling similar publicity-seeking by a representative on their own back benches.
The report which we have received this morning on the London Summit from Prime Minister Thatcher is a deliberately exaggerated account of a non-event. The basket of decisions taken over the two days by the 12 Heads of State neither merited nor justified such a meeting of powerful people. The conclusions arrived at would easily have been reached after a short afternoon's working session of Coreper first secretaries. It is surely to be hoped and anticipated that following the final adoption of the Single European Act the type of problems dealt with by the Summit on this occasion will be adequately and comprehensively taken care of by lesser mortals. It saddens me to have to say this. [end p178]
We had been given to understand that employment creation was the Summit's top priority. While we have had that fact confirmed today, Summit President, Mrs Thatcher, has also conveyed that they have settled for forlorn stabbing at mickey-mouse solutions to the unemployment problem with no plans for a positive concerted European campaign to reduce the massive figures. The proposed additional help for small and medium-scale firms, freeing firms from unnecessary burdens and the action planned for employment growth are all window dressing to cover up the Council's inaction.
As an Irishman this concerns me most as we are virtually topping the unemployment league with 18.3%; and the figure is still rising. Surely Parliament's and the Commission's request relating to increased research and development resources to enable Europe and its workforce to compete better with the Japanese and Americans, demanded a more positive Summit reaction. I was delighted to hear President Delors speak so strongly on this issue and on Erasmus just now.
Again as an Irishman and coming from a state where in the Dáil the debate on the Single European Act is to commence this afternoon, I was very concerned to learn of the Western European Union meeting which was held in conjunction with the official dinner on Friday night in London. May I, as an Irishman, express the hope that Title III, Article 30, sub-paragraph 6(c) which says:
Nothing in this title shall impede closer cooperation in the field of security between certain of the high contracting parties within the framework of the Western European Alliance,
will not be interpreted as meaning that on security the European Economic Community and the Western European Alliance are one and the same and that the Irish Prime Minister or our Minister for Foreign Affairs, in order to protect our neutral status, do not have to retire to the cloakroom while this ‘closer cooperation’ is being organized. If this interpretation is even close to the mark, a further declaration to protect Irish neutrality must be appended to the Act.(Applause)
van Der Lek(ARC).
—(NL) Mr President, I do not think the summit conference in London will mean very much to the citizens of Western Europe. We are firmly convinced that no solutions were found at this summit to the problems with which the people are actually wrestling, that is to say, the unemployment problem, the threat to the environment, the steady decline in security and the arms build-up. I admire the courage of the President of the Commission in mentioning at least a few of the problems which the Community is actually trying to solve.
At this summit we heard a great deal about economic growth and giving firms the freedom to export, to produce and to go their own way. The suggestion is that this will help to some extent and bring some change to the dreadful shortage of employment in the Community. Anyone with a passing knowledge of economic activities knows this is not true. This summit did not discuss the agricultural policy, which is a disaster for the farmers and a disaster for the Third World because of all the surpluses we dump. For some years now we have been calling for a definite reform of the agricultural policy. We have again put forward some clear proposals to this effect during the debate on next year's budget. The agricultural policy must try to fit into the environment, to assist small farmers and to ensure they stay in farming, both for social reasons and for the sake of the environment. An upper limit must be imposed on the size of farms, and the growing use of chemicals and poisons must be curbed. The Community must stop subsidizing the agro-industry, which has the whole of agriculture in its clutches, and drive it back. We must have an agricultural sector that fits into a healthy European environment: that is what ought to have been discussed. I hope Parliament will be wiser and approve the proposals we have put forward to this end.
One of the things that the citizens of this Community find particularly depressing is what is happening to the environment. We have heard nothing about the Rhine, nothing about Chernobyl, nothing about the poisoning of the North Sea and nothing about the continuing problem of acid rain. We have heard nothing about progress on large firing plants. Nor has any such progress been made, and I think I am right in saying that at the moment the President-in-Office of the Council is chiefly to blame for this.
It is a scandal, Mr President, that the Commission has such a small budget and only a few people to implement so important a policy as a common environmental policy, one of the areas in which we really believe the Community could play a major role. Directives are not being observed. An appeal for a management committee for the Rhine following the accidents in Switzerland, something that was asked for in 1970, 16 years ago, has been rejected by some of the Member States. Why is this kind of problem not discussed at a summit meeting? It is, after all, important for the public: they have to drink the water, they have to breathe the air, they have to live there.
Finally, peace and security. The President of the Council recalled in a very one-sided way the deplorable occupation of Afghanistan and simply thanked the United States for its presence in Europe. As a result of this polarization, peace …
IN THE CHAIR: MR GRIFFITHS
—Mr Van der Lek, you have gone half a minute over your time. We have got a very [end p179] pressing agenda this week and I must call the next speaker.
Le Pen (DR).
—(FR) Mr President, Madam, ladies and gentlemen, the time allotted to me is too short for extensive comment on Mrs Thatcher's report.
Let us just say that it did not disappoint us, knowing what we do about the United Kingdom's attitude in Europe and the apparently congenital incompetence of the group of men whose job is supposed to be to take decisions.
We can nevertheless note that good intentions have been reaffirmed on a number of problems, terrorism foremost among them, but unfortunately without laying down proper, clearly-defined objectives and, even worse, without bringing forward appropriate action, even though it is clear that, far from diminshing, the threat of terrorism is going to become ever more serious over the years ahead.
Lip service was paid, so to speak, to the need to deal with the ‘problem of our times’, AIDS, but the failure to stress that this disease is extremely grave, a medical catastrophe, probably helped to mislead European public opinion.
We met with the same doubting and sometimes sarcastic attitude in the French Parliament when we maintained that it was necessary to lose no time in laying down emergency measures, since this, as people are saying, is a form of plague. In the immediate term, it poses a more serious threat than war, and the specialists who alerted the authorities have made no secret of the fact that they themselves had played down the danger, preferring in a way to leave the politicians to shoulder the responsibility of alerting the public to the seriousness of the threat.
On the subject of unemployment, it was repeated that economic development was what was required, that it was businesses that created jobs, which is perfectly true, and that without the creation of small and medium-sized businesses in particular there would be no fall in the number of people out of work in Europe. However, because of the inhibitions which go with various ideological prejudices, there was no attempt to tackle the problem of foreign emigration, which is one of the major causes of unemployment in Europe, still less to recommend thoroughly just and humane measures to defend the interests of our European peoples. That is a matter for regret, as is the failure to reaffirm that the main constituent of the cement binding Europe together is Community preference and that, without political will and adherence to the principle of Community preference, Europe will never be built. To abolish Europe's internal frontiers without establishing well-defined and defended external frontiers for Europe would quite obviously create a shameful mess. Europe must be a power in the world, or rather it must become one, since it cannot claim to be one now. We must have the courage to say this, and there can be no power without common defence, no common defence without a will for common defence. The countries of Europe should be invited to create a budget commensurate with the requirements which, for the countries concerned, could not be less than 5%; of gross national product. A ‘nuclear umbrella’ should be erected over the territory of the European Community. We have two nuclear powers in Europe, and they should take up this proposal, giving the other countries an assurance that they would regard an attack on their territory, undefended by nuclear weapons, as an attack on their own territory. We need to see proposals for an armaments production plan and a common space weapons plan. Without these basic decisions Europe will lack momentum. Our young people who are experiencing a crisis of confidence and who are hard hit by unemployment have a vital need to find in Europe an ideal that meets their aspirations.
—(NL) Mr President, the economic policy of the British presidency in the European Community continued to have priority. Within this economic policy, energy policy continued to play an important role, more important than political and social considerations.
Europe, including Britain and my own country, Belgium, has a major source of energy in coal. To what extent did coal continue to play a major role in the priorities you set, Madam President? What was your position on Chernobyl? The European energy policy cannot remain unchanged after this incident.
I join with the Irish in particular in pointing out that there is a Chernobyl on the Irish Sea, representing just as much of a threat to the environment. Are you still as committed to nuclear energy after what happened at Sellafield?
Secondly, what was your position on the boycott of South African apartheid coal? The Council of Ministers is indignant about the violation of human rights and talks about an economic boycott of South Africa. What was your position on the boycott of South African coal? The dignity of both the South African mineworkers and your and our mineworkers depends on this.
Thirdly, terrorism. We note that you took a firm stand on terrorism, even going so far as to break off diplomatic relations. Were you aware, Mrs Thatcher, that, while you were breaking off relations with Syria in the name of freedom and as an indictment of terrorism, your best friend and admired ally across the seas was supplying weapons to a country that supports international terrorism and is the closest ally of Syria, the country you were condemning at that very moment? [end p180] What conclusions did you draw from this as President of the Council? (Applause from the left)
Finally, Madam President, how did you feel when decisions were being taken on Europe's fate at the summit meeting in Reykjavik without your being there? Do you not think that an autonomous Europe with an economy for peace, based on social justice, can take two important, historic steps, firstly, towards a large, united Europe. Yalta led to the hopeless division of Europe. We discussed Poland yesterday.
But the world too is hopelessly divided into strategic spheres of influence. Do you not think an autonomous Europe free of nuclear weapons, with an economy for peace, could bridge the gap caused by Yalta? Secondly, can a European economy for peace not signify the most effective economic and political support for the nations of the Third World in their quest for self-determination and dignity? (Applause from the left)
(S)— Mr President, the prize for the most fatuous political statement of the week must go to Mrs Thatcher for her description of the European Summit as ‘demonstrating the relevance of the Community to ordinary people in Europe’. Far from it! What it really demonstrated was the total irrelevance of the European Council's meeting to the solution of the most urgent and pressing problems currently facing the Community, its Member States and their citizens.
The agenda of this meeting was deliberately designed by Mrs Thatcher to avoid any real discussion of the twin crises of mounting food surpluses and impending bankruptcy. Once again it represented a complete refusal to address the real issues under the Community's control, a classic case of fiddling while Rome burns and a philosophy of never do today what you can put off till tomorrow. But, of course, tomorrow may be too late because unless drastic action is taken now, by the time the Heads of Government meet again next March, the Community may well be bankrupt. We have a saying for this in Yorkshire and I would see this as being particularly appropriate. This, Mr President, was a Summit about nowt, absolutely nowt.
Let's do what the leaders of the 12 nations are refusing to do. Let's face up to the facts. The Community's food mountains are now so large that they cannot even be dumped at subsidized prices on the world market because there is not enough money to make this possible. This week we debate the second reading of the budget. We know that the soaring costs of farm policy will create a crisis next year and that the British President's so-called creative accountancy has merely delayed the evil day. Realistically we face a deficit of about 4 billion ECU in the budget.
In the face of all this concern, how do the Heads of Government demonstrate their concern over the urgency of the situation? Is it top of the agenda? Are they complaining that in the face of this crisis other issues less important but deserving of attention are pushed off the list of topics for discussion? On the contrary. As you well know, the most important and urgent topic facing the Community was dealt with over aperitifs, half-an-hour given to President Delors before dinner. Jacques Delors, the President of the European Commission, was treated as Mrs Thatcher might treat some troublesome petitioner, addressed in the contemptuous and patronizing tones to which he is perhaps less accustomed than we are in Britain. In seven years we have grown accustomed to our Prime Minister's disdain for all those who do not jump at her command. That includes, of course, most of the members of her own cabinet. (Cries of ‘Rubbish!’ from the European Democratic Group)
Mrs Thatcher likes, or so she says, to run her government like a business. What should we think of a managing director who relegated discussion of the firm's impending bankruptcy to gin and tonics before the board meeting? What we should have got was strong decisive leadership—a message from the Heads of State to the Agriculture and Budget Ministers that they must agree to act now on the fundamental reforms that are absolutely necessary in this Community. If the European Council cannot do that, if the Summit meeting won't address itself to that, then what possible use is this institution? Is it merely a club where people get together to exchange pleasantries and to ignore the real decisions that need to be made in the Community?
Now, this is not to deny the importance of the subjects discussed. Of these, the one which stands out is the persistent and increasing problem of unemployment. The number of registered unemployed in the Community is approaching 16 million. What is more, if other governments are as adept as the British Tories fiddling the figures, then the true figure must be even higher.
What is needed quite plainly is a concerted plan of public spending to boost employment. There is a huge backlog of public investment projects all over the EEC, and we need to get the governments throughout the Community to make a major effort in public spending to increase demand and to get the jobless back to work. But, of course, the solution that is coming from Mrs Thatcher's government is the attempt to foist on the Community the same disastrous free-market policies which have led to a quadrupling of unemployment in the United Kingdom, coupled only with the ideas of so-called flexibility and the erosion of [end p181] rights of employees—ideas, incidentally, entirely alien to the Commission's own approach comprehensively rejected by the European Parliament itself at its November plenary, and evincing responses ranging from the outright hostility of the trade union movement throughout Europe to the indifference of most other Member State governments.
Reports that Mrs Thatcher would want support for this strategy are belied by the insistence of other Member State governments that workers' organizations should be involved in making decisions which affect the vital interests of their members. This, as we know in Britain only too well, is actively at odds with the Thatcherite approach. The British Government during the whole of the time it has had the Presidency of the Council of Ministers has consistently blocked any attempt at progressive social legislation. I might say in particular that though Mrs Thatcher is the only woman amongst the Heads of Government, her government has been particularly active in blocking any attempt to increase the rights of women and to increase progressive legislation in that respect.
Of course, it was not the issue of unemployment which dominated the agenda. The major subjects of discussion were terrorism, drugs and the dangers of illegal immigration, with AIDS thrown in for good measure. All these are important subjects. Terrorism certainly is a menace and I welcome the programme to combat it. I would have liked to see some mention of State terrorism as practised by certain States, in particular some mention of the actions of the United States Government in illegally selling arms to Iran and then funnelling the money to State terrorists who are fighting against the Nicaraguan Government. That was absent from this particular proposal. (Applause from the Socialist Group)
But of course these issues were not chosen for the gravity of the problems involved. Nor were they selected because they were particularly amenable to a concerted Community response. In each case, of course, whilst a Community response is necessary, it can only mitigate the problem, never provide a complete solution. They were chosen instead so that specious harmony might prevail in order that the electoral prospects of Chancellor Kohl and of Mrs Thatcher herself mightn't suffer from any discord, and in order finally that our British Prime Minister might, as one Tory Sunday newspaper claimed, establish herself as the so-called model leader of Europe.
Now the nature of this so-called model leadership is starkly revealed by the treatment of the chosen issues. The threat of illegal immigration as opposed to the growing threat of intimidation, violence and institutionalized racism suffered daily by members of ethnic minorities did not get a mention.
We heard pious expressions of concern over the threat of AIDS from a Head of Government which has actually cut funds available for research, and in fact has spent something like 5 times as much trying to sell off nationalized industries to the public as it is now spending on AIDS. I have no doubt that concern about drugs is justified but not from a Prime Minister whose policies have plunged hundreds of thousands of young people into lives of emptiness and despair. (Applause from the Socialist Group)
Her response to terrorism dismisses as fellow travellers those who express concern over civil rights and liberties.
It has been my misfortune here to have sat through two address by Mr Thatcher in her position as President-in-Office of the Council. I remember on the last occasion taking part in a demonstration in which we used the slogan ‘2 million unemployed’. It is a measure of the way this Community is going now that if I were to do that and talk about unemployment in my own country, I'd be talking about 4 million unemployed. That is what the threat of Thatcherism means, and I am only too glad that the British people will take the opportunity at the next election to make sure that I and the other Members will not have to sit through a third session of Mrs Thatcher reporting as the President of the Council. Then perhaps we will not only get rid of Mrs Thatcher herself, but also of those pernicious policies and stop them spreading to the whole of Europe.(Applause from the Socialist Group—Protests from the right)
Von Wogau (PPE)
—(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. The summit we are discussing today certainly yielded no momentous decisions. But if the Community were to act on the words we have just heard from the previous speaker and follow the precepts he proposes, we might as well write it off. If these precepts were followed in his country, our unemployment figures would soon be twice as high as they are today. (Applause from the centre and the right)
The European Council meeting in London was the last summit—or so we assume—before the Single European Act. It was certainly also a signal for an acceleration of developments within the European Community. In some respects the past year separating the Luxembourg and the London summits was rather like waiting for Godot, a period of waiting for the Single European Act, improved decision-making procedures which will enable us to open up the Community internal market by 1992.
In the last six months, it has to be said, certain successes were achieved, for example the abolition of controls on the movements of capital. We await further [end p182] steps along these lines in the next six months, namely the abolition of exchange controls. If you just look at what citizens of the European Community have to pay when they make small transfers across the Community's internal frontiers, the justice of our demands is obvious: there must be cross-border competition in the services sector also, and there must be greater transparency and a more reasonable approach here.
In the past year there has also been considerable concerted movement towards greater stability in the European Community. If next year's inflation rate in the European Community is kept at the expected 3%; that will be a great achievement, indeed, primarily a success in terms of social policy. (Applause from the centre and the right)
Who has actually suffered from an inflation rate of 6%; or 7%;? Not the big entrepreneurs! Not the millionaires! It was the small man who suffered, and this is why a policy of stability is also an extremely effective social policy. (Applause from the centre and the right)
This success is also an important precondition of further advance towards European Monetary Union. I fully expect to see ECU accounts next year, in the Federal Republic for example—Mr Stoltenberg and Mr Pöhl please take note. Of course we should also be very glad if the United Kingdom also decided next year that the time was ripe to join the European Monetary System. (Applause from the centre and the right)
But there is yet another test of whether we are serious about achieving results by 1992. The ministers are on trial here. If we do not manage to get the framework programme approved, something which will lend a powerful impetus to realization of the internal market, then that would be a declaration of bankruptcy. Consequently we should urge not only the Heads of State and Government, but also the appropriate ministers, to approve the framework programme on a reasonable scale.
It is a well known fact that we are currently behind schedule as regards implementation of the white paper. But it would certainly be a mistake if Commission and Council of Ministers confined themselves next year to simply ticking off what has and what has not been implemented.
We must concentrate on the areas of main importance. One such area is the Community of advanced technology, common standards, mutual recognition of qualifications. The Community patent and trade mark provide the framework for more communality in the high-technology market.
Secondly, our Heads of State and Government, our parliaments and our governments face challenges in the area of taxation. Difficult decisions face us here.
The same goes for the area of administrative and legal cooperation, for if we open up the frontiers between our countries, we must reinforce the controls operated at our external frontiers and ensure that cooperation between the bodies responsible for security and health is improved. This is the third major precondition for the attainment of our objective.(Applause from the centre and from the right)
Perinat Elio (ED)
—(ES) Mr President, Prime Minister, I would like to start by congratulating you Madam Prime Minister on having managed the British Presidency with true British pragmatism and efficiency.
The British Presidency has succeeded in making its own projects compatible with on-going Community projects, achieving a continuity which is both oriented towards the future and sensitive to the problems of the moment.
The London Summit took place against a background of problems which undoubtedly require solution. The final communiqué contained a list of practical proposals for action which will serve to stimulate the development of Community activities in several important areas. Particular study has been devoted to the subjects I shall now mention.
Madam Prime Minister, I listened to your remarks on terrorism with satisfaction. We in Spain are especially aware of this plague which has afflicted us for some time and which the Socialist Government has not yet been able to deal with. In my group's view Community cooperation is essential if the problem is to be solved.
I must say the same about the drug problem which also affects my country very severely. We have always regarded drug trafficking, drug abuse and their very tragic consequences as an international problem, so we associate ourselves with the Council's decision to adopt measures for the exchange of information and to establish a policy of cooperation between Community States.
The future of the European Community is crucially dependent on the maintenance of Community policies. Community structural policy is vitally important; it ought to be a scurce of hope for the depressed regions and a source of jobs for all the unemployed.
I would like to end, Madam Prime Minister, by saying that the parties in the European Democratic Group come from countries which have ratified the European Single Act (the United Kingdom, Spain and Denmark). I believe, Madam Prime Minister, that this is a [end p183] cause for congratulation, and I hope the example of our parties and our countries will be followed by the rest of the Community.(Applause from the right)
—(GR) Mr President, I feel obliged to mention the incident that occurred during the President-in-Office's speech and to say that we condemn both the manner of it and the message it was intended to support.
But we can see that there must be something rotten in the politics of the United Kingdom, and given that Mrs Thatcher was speaking as President-in-Office of the Council of the Twelve there must be something rotten in the politics of the EEC as well. On foreign policy matters, for instance, this rottenness would have warranted representatives of the peace movements which comprise millions of Europeans being here, and in the climate of international tension they might have expected to hear the President-in-Office say something about peace and disarmament. But they would have heard nothing, only that Afghanistan is an area of tension; nothing about the flagrant abrogation of SALT II, nothing about the failure to respond to the moratorium on nuclear tests, nothing about the need to reduce and get rid of nuclear weapons in Europe. On the contrary, they would have heard Mrs Thatcher express her gratitude to the United States for nuclear capability and nuclear deployment.
What will become of us in Europe without nuclear weapons? Mrs Thatcher told us about that, but she said nothing about other areas of tension, the Middle East, Central America, which pose an incalculable threat to world peace.
Secondly, Mr President, the representatives of the EEC's 12 million unemployed could have interrupted things here and caused a disturbance and asked Mrs Thatcher: what are you doing about it? She just gave us a homily and told us that they are pushing ahead with the internal market … (The President urged the speaker to conclude.)
… I could mention other things that were missing too, but I just want to end with the question of terrorism. Mrs Thatcher, when all is said and done, when one State charges other States with organizing …
—Mr Ephremidis, your speaking time is up.
Medeiros Ferreira (RDE)
—(PT) Mr President, first of all I want to protest against the way these Parliamentary debates about European Council meetings are organized and place Members in an impossible position. Suffice it to say that motions to wind up the debate had to be tabled before 7 p.m. yesterday, Monday, when little or nothing was really known about the London Council. It is only after information has been conveyed to us here by the Prime Minister and the President of the Commission that we can reasonably table such motions. The prestige and effectiveness of the European Parliament often depends on such procedural details.
However, Prime Minister, Mr President, let us discuss the London Council.
The London Council, following on from the Hague Council, did not take a single decision of importance for the future, or, to put it another way, 1986 was a year of political paralysis in terms of solving European problems. The situation was even more absurd since 1986 was the year of the third enlargement, qualitatively different from other years in all social and political respects. It was even more absurd because 1986 was also the year the public became aware of the Community's budgetary and financial crisis. So these are the questions that must be asked:
—What progress has been made towards increasing the Community's revenue?
—What solutions have been found to deal with the stockpiles of certain agricultural products?
—What has happened to the Erasmus programme, vital to a citizens' Europe?
—And, apart from stressing the importance of economic and social cohesion for the construction of the internal market, what effective steps will be taken? Or will the directives on cohesion still fail to get priority at the next Council?
The nature of the internal market will depend essentially on the priorities selected in its construction: if one priority is wrong it could all become negative. I am speaking to President Delors when I say this.
Turning towards President Thatcher, I ask:
—Why did the European Council not tackle the major problems facing the EEC?
Terrorism and AIDS are important issues, but they are, perhaps, circumstantial. European security, EEC finance, a dynamic budget, economic and social cohesion—these are the great issues of the future.
—(DA) Mr President, Madam Prime Minister, a more or less unanimous press thinks that the summit in London was a clear demonstration of the division and impotence of the Community's politicians. All the insurmountable problems which threaten the future of Europe were swept under the carpet. [end p184]
The outward expansion of the Community by the accession of new Member States and its inward expansion by the drive to implement the internal market has uncovered deep divisions between the Member States. On the other hand, other interests which have clear common objectives are getting their chance now. The Commission seems increasingly to find an ally in big business. It is also a considerably more powerful answer to the economic onward march of the USA and Japan than anything the politically preoccupied and divided Council of Ministers can achieve. It is interesting to see that the theory of this change in power emphasis is aired in the Commission's own publications. The magazine Europe, published by the Commission's Washington office, carries an arresting analysis of these problems, written by a well-known EEC economist, which says amongst other things: ‘A silent revolution is taking place just as silently in the strategy of the European Community with regard to industry. It offers firms in business and industry opportunities as never before for exerting an influence on the policies pursued and for participating in the activities of a Community driven by twin forces: technological renewal and international competitivity.’
I think it is important for both the supporters and the opponents of the Community to see the dangerous implications of a situation in which the influence of the Member States and their politicians is weakened, while notions of a cooperative State grow in strength through the Commission's collaboration with big business. As far as I can see, the London summit was a huge step in this direction.
—(GR) Mr President, yet one more Council Summit has come to an end with the ritual lengthy statement of conclusions, but the major problems facing the Community are as they were before. The leaders of the Twelve clung to the policy of repetition and confirmed their inability to take the right sort of vigorous decisions and promote concrete and specific policies. They restated the importance for Europe's future of the Single Act, but stopped short of the measures for making a reality of it. They stressed the need for completion of the internal market, but confined their grandiose political and economic visions to the relaxing of customs barriers. It has been stressed time and again in this Chamber that the Single Act and the internal market are not going to lead to the genuine and sound integration of Europe unless we first achieve economic and social cohesion in the Community.
There must be an integrated policy to achieve economic cohesion, and Community action here must be aimed at two main objectives: first, at evening out disparities between the Member States. Completion of the internal market will exacerbate these, and, secondly, the promotion of development in all of the Community's regions which can come from taking full advantage of the benefits this wide market will generate.
This dual objective of economic and social cohesion can be attained through convergence of the economic structures and levels of development. But the success of such a policy necessitates restructuring and proper handling of the structural funds, and generous financing for them.
The Summit did not give us much cause for hope in this respect. In his account here today of the problems besetting the Community, and at the Summit too, the President of the Commission, Mr Delors, has made it clear that the Community faces bankruptcy. The funds are running out. It is particularly disappointing for the European Parliament that the Summit was unwilling to consider Parliament's positions regarding the budget and the massive agricultural stocks. In all honesty we cannot fathom why the Summit also failed to take a proper lead on reform of the CAP with a view to alleviating the difficulties and putting the financing of agriculture and the allocation of appropriations to it on a more rational and efficient footing.
Mr President, we certainly welcome any measures designed to combat the huge problem of unemployment. But we must not ignore the fact that so long as the Community is developed with the sole objective of maximizing economic performance it will always have to contend with the consequences of unequal growth. As Mr Delors stressed today, there is a need to establish a European social arena in which social dialogue can be developed.
It is important that, albeit along general lines, the Summit did discuss problems such as environmental protection, terrorism, drugs, cancer and AIDS. However, we would have expected the leaders of the Twelve to have shown more concern than they did about the repercussions of Chernobyl and the pollution of the Rhine, and to have discussed these problems and their connection with the Community's energy policy priorities in greater depth. The statement of conclusions contains nothing about the Community's international positions, about its role in negotiations on limitation of the nuclear arsenal and the abolition of chemical weapons. This gets a brief and vague mention in a separate statement on East-West relations in the light of the Reykjavik Summit and the Vienna Conference. Nor were the problems created by the sale of arms by the United States to Iran discussed, not even in the wider context of the Summit.
The thinking of the President-in-Office of the Council that it is particularly important for Europe to display unity because of certain problems created by Washington through the sale of arms to Iran is curious to say the least.
Mr President, in a few days from now the Community of Twelve will have had its first year …
—Mr Romeos, I must interrupt you now; your speaking time is up. [end p185]
—(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. Prime Minister Thatcher has briefed us today on the London summit, but also on the work done by the UK Government during the past six months of its Council presidency. I should like to say a few brief words on the issue of concern to us at the moment. Firstly it is true to say—and our thanks are due expressly to Minister Brooke—that the UK Government has helped to solve the 1986 budgetary conflict, not least thanks to Mr Brooke and his tough, friendly and resolute approach. You have passed part one of the exam, Mr Brooke; the final exam awaits you on Wednesday. Then we shall see how we are to deal with the 1987 budget—amicably or otherwise.
At least in one respect the London summit appears to have realized that this House reached a very courageous and resolute decision in its first reading—to the surprise of many—namely by calling in one agricultural sector for a 5%; reduction in quotas, albeit with appropriate compensation for the farmers, to be scaled according to social criteria. Unfortunately the London summit failed to transmit this message loud and clear to the agriculture ministers who are meeting today. It is important to understand that 80%; of the members of this House, representing all nations and all groups, have expressed this wish, because we know that a meaningful budget strategy for the next few years will only be possible if—and Mrs Veil is right here—we are also prepared to co-operate in solving the difficulties which divide us. I would urge Prime Minister Thatcher—it is never too late in politics—once again to give the agriculture ministers a clear signal, for it will greatly assist our finance minister Mr Brooke if we receive a clear sign from the agriculture ministers to the effect that they are prepared to go along with Parliament's line.
Secondly, we have to accept in the medium term that in 1987 this Community will basically be bankrupt. There is no point arguing about how to juggle the billions around a bit. We have run out of room for manoeuvre, and we have to accept this.
Even though its presidency of the Council ends on 1 January the United Kingdom will be an important partner next year. And we must stress, to the British in particular, that there is no point arguing about whether the VAT ceiling should or should not be raised to 1.6%;. It has to be if we are to meet our duties and obligations at all. As Prime Minister Thatcher is not exactly known for her timidity, I assume she can also make it very clear to her supporters in the Commons that the question of a 1.6%; VAT maximum rate is no longer something which the heads of government may or may not decide: it is a duty. Anyone who wishes this Community to progress, as she has said, must see it this way.
There is another point which has to be seen in the longer-term perspective. Mr Delors is quite right: we cannot discuss future research programmes, smallish programmes such as Erasmus, and then simply cut them or even axe them completely because of some budgetary constraint or other. When we hear at the same time that such programmes are essential to the advance of the Community, then this means that we have to provide solid, responsible financing for then, responsible also in the eyes of Parliament. We need a new financial regulation, and we ask Mrs Thatcher as UK Prime Minister to understand this wish of ours. The gradual creation of a United States of Europe can only be done via intelligent and responsible financial reform.
—(DA) Mr President, if its history is to be written in a positive light, a presidency must maintain the greatest possible degree of calm. Economic systems and magnetic fields are very sensitive; it was therefore a shrewd move to hold a summit with a low profile. There is nothing particularly controversial in making a public declaration of opposition to drugs, cancer and AIDS. Nor is there any great risk in declaring oneself in favour of peace. There are political parties or groupings in Europe which gain sole sustenance from declaring that they and only they are the real guardians of peace. It is in order therefore to thank the President-in-Office of the Council for reminding us of the value of what we have already created in Europe. NATO and the Community, of which we are the democratically elected representatives.
There were in addition many positive points both in the summit communiqué and in the speech of the President-in-Office of the Council. It was a good speech, strongly delivered despite the unreasonable interruptions. It was based on an analysis of the constitutional balancing weights which are built into the system we live under in the Community: the Commission's role is to propose and lead us in certain directions; Parliament's task is to improve, exert pressure and act as Europe's bad conscience, ultimately to exercise the responsibility we have already been given or have taken upon ourselves. It is no doubt the task of the European Council to rein back, to hold things in check, to cast a wet blanket, to blur differences, to staunch bleeding, to give first aid with respect to the immediate problems. The major problems remain largely unaffected. That is to be expected; it is something the changing Council accepts. In the last analysis the heads of government are answerable to their own national parliaments. They also hold the purse-strings, which we in this Chamber know only too well in these times for budgeting. But they must be given a message from the European Parliament, which will be passed on to the Belgian presidency and then to the Danish presidency: appointed bodies and councils can be abolished at the stroke of a pen, but this assembly is democratically elected. That makes it more of an embarrassment, but in the end also more responsible, [end p186] for it cannot be removed, overlooked or forgotten. Its existence rests upon the decisions taken by some 200 million voters who have freely exercised their democratic rights. Therefore let no presidency believe that it can get by with tranquillizers or fine words. To the British presidency we should say an unmistakable ‘thank you’, because we have made some progress. To the incoming presidencies we should sound a warning: the European Parliament will continue to exert pressure right up to the deadline, 1992 and even beyond, which we have set ourselves in the Single European Act.
Marques Mendes (RDE).
—(PT) Mr President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, despite everything, the London Summit did conclude with some decisions, albeit vague, amongst which I would highlight:
1—The recognition of the need to promote policies that encourage economic and social cohesion as a means of facilitating the creation of the large European internal market.
2—The move towards action to deal with the grave financial crisis and the agricultural problems of the Community.
However, an ideal opportunity for announcing a step that is fundamental to the credibility of the European project has been lost. I refer of course to the pound sterling joining the European Monetary System.
Mr President, Sir Henry Plumb himself made it quite clear today that his group supports the inclusion of the pound in the exchange rate mechanism.
All the excuses for postponing the entry of the pound into the EMS, or rather, for justifying the claim that ‘the right moment for entry has not yet come’ are worn out. Specifically, the arguments based on its alleged role as a petro-currency, the idea of an appropriate parity relative to the German Mark, the opposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, etc., etc., etc., no longer stand up.
Now it is being said in the corridors that the only argument left to justify the failure of the pound sterling to join the European Monetary System is called Margaret Thatcher.
Madam Prime Minister, we would appreciate some clarification in this Chamber of the significance of …
—Mr Marques Mendes, your speaking time is up.
—(DE) Mr President, Madam Prime Minister, may I first of all apologize on my side too for the disgraceful performance of an Ayatollah here in the Parliament and for the vacuousness of certain remarks which were addressed to you.
Madam President, I should like to begin by congratulating you on the fact that the United Kingdom is one of the first States to have ratified the Single Act. We are happy that the United Kingdom has in this way shown itself to be a true member of the European Community.
I would also like to thank you most particularly for having spoken so much about human rights, along lines close to our hearts also. For human rights are scorned, principally in that part of Europe cut off from us since Yalta. We have a duty to draw attention to this and remind the whole world that human rights have to be upheld for Europe. Tomorrow is of course Human Rights Day, and our thanks are due for that.
I thank you also for your pronouncements on terrorism, but I am also a little disappointed, because what the Council has said here does not go to the heart of the matter. We shall only defeat terrorism when we have a formal Community-wide jurisdiction, an institutionalized area of jurisdiction. Without it we shall never beat the terrorists.
There have of course been some remarks to the effect that not everything has gone as we had hoped during the UK presidency. But on the other hand I have to say that the tasks concerned were often not spectacular ones, for example the integration of the new Member States of Spain and Portugal following their accession. But on doubt we were so successful here because their integration is of such decisive importance to our political and economic future.
Prime Minister, we have a number of tasks still to perform, and although you will be giving up the presidency of the Council at the end of the month, I would ask you to continue as a driving force in the treatment of a number of problems close to our hearts, such as the development of European political cooperation or the establishment of proper relations between the European Community and Comecon, an organization rather different from our own. In particular it should not be forgotten that Europe does not stop at the frontiers laid down in Yalta!(Applause from the centre)
—(IT) Mr President, it is indeed true that the London Summit has given grounds for deep disappointment, but I think it is mistaken to polarize these grounds for disappointment on one country or one President-of-the-Council, in this specific case Mrs Thatcher. We are faced with a Europe in the process of growing old, which is not only a biological fact, and which is now permanently pointed out as a reason for political obsolescence as well as the justification for a strategy for the future. [end p187]
It is a process that, regardless of age, permeates words themselves. And, in the particular situation in which we find ourselves this morning, listening to Mrs Thatcher's speech, I was most astonished not to find any connection between the first and final parts of that speech.
In the first part there is a very explicit reference to the ‘small steps policy’, and this at the very time when there are strategies moving at supersonic speed in the world that change the balance of power and of the economic structure, and shift these balances from one ocean to another. If Europe as seen by Mrs Thatcher and her colleagues is the Europe of ‘small steps’, we can become the museum of the historical memory of this continent, but nothing more.
In the final part of this speech she quotes Von Weizsäcker—who is a person that we certainly all admire from many points of view—quoting his appeal for courage. But this courage seems to be reflected only in the fact that a British President-of-the-Council is quoting the words of a President of the German Republic. We are still, 40 years after the end of World War II, expected to consider as a great success a fact such as this, a fact that is so little relevant to what is happening in the world, and to the impetus that is being given, with new dispositions worldwide, to the world of power. But either we are engaged in a Proustian search for something that no longer exists, or Europe, Mrs Thatcher, is in reality—as the Greek myth of the god Proteus teaches us—a continent that constantly changes its appearance so as to avoid answering the questions that history puts to it.
—Mr President, looking at the report of last week's European Council meeting in London and remembering the number of occasions on which the Council has sat down over the last 7½ years and discussed at length the serious problems of unemployment in the European Community without reaching specific decisions capable of providing a sizeable number of jobs in the Community as a whole, it can only be regarded as an unsatisfactory performance, a result that none of us should feel happy about. This is or should be one of our main concerns. Last week's meeting, as indeed many other meetings at different levels in the Community, covered the same old ground once again—the creation of jobs sometime in the future that will be lasting jobs, but never more jobs today. There is not a sufficient sense of urgency, and people's hope and confidence are now becoming totally undermined. This situation has lasted for more than a decade and now it has become the main cause of unrest throughout the Community. It is not sufficient to be able to pride ourselves on the fact that inflation levels have been brought down. There is no comfort in this for the long-term unemployed who are now saying, understandably enough, so what? They see no change in their positions. They have been told in the past that their jobs have been lost mainly through oil price increases that started in the early 1970s. Now they see that oil prices have come down in the past year or so by between 50 and 70%; and they want to know why they are still on social welfare with nothing to do all day. They are asking why some of this money is not being invested in jobs and they are still waiting for the answer. Perhaps this is an over-simplification but it is the way they see it and again I say this is a serious situation. The unemployed are the citizens of Europe and they feel that they are not receiving the attention they deserve.
In the few moments I have left I should like to comment on the financing of the Community and monetary union. I regret very much that the undoubted progress made during the British Presidency was not crowned with the announcement of their joining the EMS. Is it too much to hope that this announcement is still possible as a Christmas gift to the Community?
President of the Commission.—(FR) I think that everyone is grateful to Mrs Thatcher for having stayed for the whole of this debate. I shall therefore not keep you for long.
Mr Pranchère put a question to me. I am more than happy to give him an answer, particularly since he is doubly my compatriot, being not only French but from the same départment as me, the Corrèze, so that I am privileged to be familiar with his writings, where he shows scant mercy to the Commission and Europe. Perhaps one day he will allow me the freedom of his columns so that I can render account of my actions in defence of the small farmer? His question was about the dispute between us and the United States over the consequences of enlargement. I have to tell him that there are no grounds for optimism, since the Americans are taking up an entrenched position according to which the customs union may be permitted under the GATT rules, but this is no basis for establishing general principles encompassing advantages and disadvantages, agriculture, services and industry, but instead arrangements should apply to individual products or broad categories of product since, according to their interpretation, the immediate future holds only disadvantages, for their agriculture while it will be some years before they reap industrial benefits. We totally reject this thesis. As matters stand, therefore, it will be extremely difficult to reach agreement. Last August, taking advantage of the fact that many Europeans were on holiday, they launched an offensive; we responded, gladly giving up a few days' leave. My fear is that the next time we have to respond to an American offensive will be on Christmas Eve. I may be wrong, but that is how I see things.
If I may be permitted a general comment on this debate—you have shown been interest, and you have all spoken of the future of the Community and application of the Single Act—I wish to say to you formally, on behalf of the Commission, that if for various [end p188] reasons you did not adopt the 1987 budget, you would regrettably share the responsibility, I have to tell you candidly, for the difficulties that we would subsequently face in dealing with the fundamental problems. It is therefore my personal hope that you will leave secondary issues to one side and help to ensure that the Community is given a budget for 1987 and that, once this matter has been settled, we shall all be able to get down to tackling the financial problems of the future.
President-in-Office of the European Council.—Mr President, may I say how grateful I am to colleagues for their comments about the incident which accurred at the beginning and also how grateful I am to so many for taking part in the debate which I have greatly enjoyed. You wouldn't expect me to agree with all of the things which have been said. I have been accused, among other things, of irrelevance. I find that that accusation mostly comes from people who show some tendency to suffer from the disease themselves.
(Applause from the right)
May I make it clear that I came here today to report to you as President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers, not on the policies of Her Majesty's Government, but on the action which the European Council has taken in the interests of the Community as a whole. It is as President-in-Office of the Council, conscious of my responsibility to all Members of this Parliament, that I have to reply to the debate. In the European Council each of us brings to the meeting table our profoundly held political convictions. But we also bring to the negotiating table a determination to achieve results for the citizens of the Community as a whole. Whatever has been said from whatever quarter of this Chamber, may I remind honourable Members that the final communiqué was agreed to by all Heads of Government whatever their political opinion. I hope colleagues will bear that in mind.
(Applause from the European Democratic Group)
The particular quarter from which the applause came reminds me to say how very grateful I am to Sir Henry Plumb for the excellent leadership he gives to our group in this Parliament.
May I also say to many other people who have spoken how very much I agree with those who say we shall only get a successful Community on the basis of sound economic policies and the convergence of those policies, which means low inflation. If everyone goes back to printing money, one will soon be back to far higher unemployment, even higher than we have now. (Applause from the European Democratic Group)
Inflation is the enemy of jobs and therefore, it is vital that we keep inflation down. Sound financial policies were very much a part of this communiqué.
That brings me to some hard-hitting things which were said right at the beginning by Mr Delors about the gap between ends and means. With respect, I wish he had said some of these things in London. I did invite him to do so while he was sitting at the press conference with me. He was singularly quiet.
We could have had a much more interesting comment then, but he said it today.
May I make this point: in 1984 we agreed to raise the VAT ceiling in the Community. I justified that increase in the British Parliament, as others did in their Parliaments, on the grounds that the Community needed more funds to cope with enlargement and to allow more resources for new policies. Mr Delors has told us today that those new policies are being thwarted because too much of our resources are still being pre-empted by one policy alone; a necessary policy, but one which has to be adapted to today's needs, to a Community in which 90%; of the people are not engaged in agriculture. One has been very concerned and one's confidence in the procedures of financial discipline is very shaken when we hear from some quarters that Community finances are characterized by disastrous overspending. Yet at the same time as that comment is made, more money is requested. We cannot do both.
Mr Barón Crespo, like President Delors, stressed that more needs to be done and the European Parliament has suggested funds for destocking agricultural surpluses. We all want to get rid of the surpluses, but you cannot drain the tank when the tap is still turned full on. You have to do both of the things necessary at the same time. You cannot spend money on student exchanges if you have already spent it on feeding surplus milk to calves. You can't spend more on research and development if you have already spent it on subsidized sales to the Soviet Union unless you totally and utterly reject financial discipline and put an ever deeper and ever bigger hand into the taxpayer's pocket.
Yes, I believe in financial discipline! If you want more money it has to be approved by each Parliament in this Community. We happen, in spite of what some colleagues have said, to belong to those three Member States of the Community which make net contributions to the Community. Nine don't. Nine take it out in net benefits. Germany, ourselves and now France make net contributions to the Community. We put up our net contributions through the VAT for enlargement and for new policies. We now understand that too much is going on one particular thing, namely, surpluses. That has to be dealt with so that monies can be released from that in order to do the other things. Yes, I want to see more being done on research and [end p189] development. Yes, I want to see more being done on structural funds, but I do not believe you can do it—if you want to adhere to financial discipline—by just asking more over and above that which is at present enshrined in the Treaty.
So when Mr Delors produces his report I shall look at it with the greatest possible interest because he is coming round to our capitals and we did insist in the discussion we had that he should set out options and the consequences of options. We shall look at those options very carefully. The first occasion on which Heads of Government may raise the VAT—not will, may—is 1 January 1988. Let me make it clear to this Parliament that I am responsible also to my own Parliament and they are very anxious about what will happen then and are already cross-examining me very closely. So we shall look very carefully at the proposals for real lasting reform.
Neither the Commission nor colleagues here will find that Britain shies away from taking difficult decisions on agricultural surpluses. We didn't shy away from this communiqué. We wanted to put something more in on agriculture, particularly as there is a specialist Agriculture Council going on now. We would have preferred to urge them to reach the relevant conclusions on milk and beef. That did not find favour with some other colleagues. This is what happens in the European Council. You can't all of you get your own way. You have to compromise. That idea did not find favour with other European colleagues. I agree, the communiqué was singularly deficient on the problem of agriculture because not all nations are prepared to face it yet, although all know it must be faced. I am as conscious as the Commission is and, I imagine, so are honourable Members here, that unless it is faced within the coming months, the money will run out towards the end of next year. I would say I regard it as irresponsible to take decisions on agriculture for the coming year knowing that the funds may not be there to meet them.
So as far as Britain is concerned, one will find cooperation in tackling all of these problems as one has found cooperation in the Agriculture Council in the past and found cooperation in getting a sound basis for the finances of the Community. But I think we would do ourselves a disservice if we thought for a moment that everything in the Community demanded more money. There are many things that do not demand money, but demand willpower,
(Applause from the centre and from the right)
which is not always forthcoming in each and every nation. We have in fact during this presidency managed to get 32 internal market measures agreed or adopted: the most ever registered in a single presidency. People say it has been irrelevant. How strange! It includes valuable agreements which will help to liberate capital markets, combat counterfeit goods—absolutely vital to Europe's industries—protect consumers from chemicals in meat, establish standards for direct broadcasting by satellite and set new standards for hotel fire safety which will benefit tourists, and so on. We also were very anxious that we should take decisions which would help digital cellular radio. That is something where Europe has the basic research. We have the know-how, we have an enormous potential market. We are not talking about an old industry ready to fall victim to inefficient technology, we are talking about a new industry which it is up to us to exploit. It is more a matter of willpower than of cash—the will to create a common standard throughout Europe. That is what we have been trying to do. That is what we must continue to do if we are to get the internal market which was after all an objective of the original Treaty of Rome. So yes, we have to deal with cash, yes, we have to deal with the common agricultural policy, we have to deal with the internal market which is not so much a matter of cash as a matter of willpower.
Now colleagues have mentioned many other things. Some have mentioned the European Monetary System. Again may I say this: I believe it would help enormously if all those who belong to the exchange rate mechanism had what Britain has, freedom of capital movement. Never accuse us of not being communautaire. You will find we are leading in many things now—freedom of capital movement, absence of foreign exchange controls and similar monetary systems, that would make it very much easier for an exchange rate mechanism to work rather better than it does now. I hope one day that we shall be able to come it. That is my objective, but don't forget we have done many more things to make a better exchange rate mechanism possible than some other countries in the Community.
I would indeed have liked more things in the communiqué, for example about the internal market. On things like air fares it did not go far enough. It was other governments which prevented this. I would have liked more in about the abolition of quotas for lorries, also an internal market mechanism. It was other countries which prevented this. I would have liked to have reported that more countries had ratified the Single European Act. I was not able to do so. We were among the first to do it. But I was not able to and that is because European Councils are negotiating tables of people who have to reconcile differing interests, and we all have to reach some compromise and we do so. We all have to face difficult problems and I am the first to say that not all countries are actually facing them.
There has been a great deal said about matters like terrorism and drugs, and I think pretty nearly all the things that we did have really been very widely welcomed from all parts of this Chamber. It has been suggested that we did not discuss the Middle East, Central America, South Africa. We discussed some of [end p190] these matters and the Foreign Ministers discussed others. There was a discussion on South Africa. There is nothing further to report on that from the position which we took up at The Hague.
We are very anxious that there is no progress being made in the Arab/Israel position in the Middle East. We are all very conscious of that fact, it does not augur well, and we are all very anxious that there should be some fresh impetus and fresh progress from the beginning of next year. The problems are the same: to define which Palestinians shall negotiate, because to many of us the PLO would not be acceptable, and to define those countries which would provide a kind of international background for the negotiations to take place.
Central America, I understand, was discussed by the Foreign Ministers. Doubtless there were different viewpoints as there were in the UN Assembly itself when we were one of the 47 countries who abstained on the motion before the assembly on Nicaragua.
There have been comments about the twin pillars of the alliance. To me it is important that both should be strong. If you are going to have a bridge you have got to have two strong pillars to hold it up. And I must be absolutely frank: I am always very, very disturbed at any signs of anti-Americanism I find anywhere.
Yes, it is easy to speak in favour of peace. It is also easy to undermine that very peace which we all need for our future. Any suggestion of anti-Americanism, I think, is very, very ill-founded when they have 330 000 troops on the frontier of freedom which goes across our continent and their families are here as well.
Mr President, you will be giving me the time limit very soon.
I do not believe that we should under-estimate the achievements of the last six months. There have been enormous achievements both on the internal market, on the practicalities with which we are trying to create real jobs, by which we are trying to help those who are unemployed, whether long-term unemployed or youth unemployed, and many ministers from other countries come to Britain to see what we are doing now about long-term unemployed and helping them back into work and what we are doing with our two-year youth training scheme which is excellent and helping many young people to acquire skills they would never otherwise have had.
We are also trying to do a good deal to help small businesses start up. I for one was very sad that we could not, having had it discussed at two European Councils, be more explicit about the VAT proposals which the Commission has put forward, which raises the VAT threshold on turnover at the option of each country to £ 25 000, and also simplifies the VAT returns for small businesses who have a turnover up to about £ 110 000—all practical measures which we were trying to push ahead but other countries do not find themselves able fully to accept that yet.
If you read the conclusions of the London European Council, you will see there is a list of steps which are practical, which are realistic, which are sound. All things which one needs if we are to achieve the unity of the people of Europe which the Treaty of Rome envisaged.
Finally, Mr President, may I thank you for offering me this opportunity to reply. It seems to me that some people do not like me to reply quite as vigorously as they attack me. It is a reciprocal business with us, I hope it is with you.
May I make it absolutely clear that Britain is fully communautaire and that in many cases she is leading the pack and will continue to lead the pack in facing the real problems. And I shall be just as realistic and frank about who isn't as I have been today.
(Prolonged applause from the centre and from the right)
—The debate is closed.