Next stop of Manfred Weber's listening tour across the European Union is Cyprus, in the very south of our conti ...
13. Juni 2018
Future of Europe 7 - European Defence & Budget - Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte
SPEECH OF MANFRED WEBER,
CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Seventh Debate on the Future of Europe
13 June 2018
with Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
- English language original version -
Dear Prime Minister,
I want to welcome the Prime Minister to the European Parliament. It is good to have him here.
After the G7 weekend, I want to focus on External Affairs in my contribution today. Some would probably say that in three or seven years’ time after Donald Trump, the old system will come back. But I don’t think so. I think we are at a historical moment, at a crossroads, where we have to decide in which direction we want to go as the European Union, as you also said in your contribution. The alternatives are clear: either it is national egoism, a weak community of the disappointed, dreaming in vain of their lost empires; or it is a united Europe that can act as a real global power. The positive thing is that the decision is in our hands: we decide about our future.
This is why the need for a united European Union in the field of foreign policy is so obvious: you mentioned the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine. I want to underline that you have the full support of the EPP Group and of the whole House: we have to find the persons responsible and Russia has to contribute to an independent investigation. But bearing this concrete point in mind, Prime Minister, the key question remains: How do we come to conclusions on external affairs in the European Union? Because today, foreign affairs policy in the European Union is -frankly speaking- too much horse-trading. It cannot be that in foreign policy, a continent of 28 Member States and 500 million people can be blocked by one single country. Europe is obviously weak in this regard. We have a friendship group of China inside the European Council, we have a friendship group of Russia inside the European Council, a friendship group of Iran in the European Council. It cannot be that foreign countries can buy influence in the European Union and even block foreign policy decisions.
The European Commission will come up with a proposal to switch from the unanimity requirement to majority decision-making in external affairs. This would be possible under our current Lisbon Treaty. If we do not adopt this proposal, we will be weak. If we adopt it, we will be strong. So please tell us, Mr. Prime Minister: will you support this proposal for majority decision-making in external affairs? We need your answer on this concrete question.
But let us also talk about our priorities for external affairs: I think, the Middle East is key to our future peace and stability. But what is today’s situation? The EU is the biggest donor of all major powers, but it has the least impact in the region. Can we use our humanitarian power to create peace in Syria? This must be our guiding question in the future.
And on Africa – which is probably the biggest priority for all of us – we have to take an open market approach: trade is the key for creating development in Africa. And we need a Marshall Plan for Africa to attract investments and economic growth to the continent.
But all these priorities require money. Therefore, I want to reflect on the discussion on our multiannual European budget. When you spoke about this budget, Mr Prime Minister, you questioned the fact that burden sharing would be proportional in the European Union. I do not think this criticism is fair. The mechanism of financing the European Union is clearly linked to a country’s GDP: so 1% is 1%, 1.1% is 1.1% and 1.3% – which is the idea of the European Parliament – is 1.3%. It is proportional in every way, so do not tell the people that this is not proportional what we are doing here. The key question is whether we are ready to finance the strength of the European Union with new investments in the European defence fund. The question is whether we make new investments for a Marshall Plan for Africa and for additional Frontex officers to have strong border controls. If we want all these priorities, then we have to finance them, and also you have to finance them, Mr Prime Minister.
When we take a broader look at external affairs, we need clear understanding of our own role as Europeans in global developments. Today’s world is dominated by “America first” – Frans Timmermans mentioned this: egoism instead of partnership. And our own European history was much of the same: also in Europe, we practiced national egoism instead of partnership. Then we had a game-changer: the creation of the European Union. With a united Europe, we established a mechanism to find solutions in a civilised way. Bearing this in mind, I think the European Union is a model for today’s world. The European Union is not a nation, but much more than an international organisation. And the European Union is key to solving problems and avoiding conflicts. Today’s European Union is probably the alternative to Donald Trump’s approach to global politics.
I think we also have to talk about the hard power of the European Union and about military abilities of our continent. We have achieved a lot in the Permanent Structured Cooperation in defence matters (PESCO) by creating a European headquarter. But please allow me to pick out only one other security issue, Mr Prime Minister, because you spoke about respecting agreements on a European level. Therefore, I want to ask you about the implementation of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive to fight terrorism and organised crime: This instrument is also an important security aspect for the whole Europe, but it is not yet fully implemented in the Netherlands.
And coming back to Europe’s military capacities, I want to ask you, Mr Prime Minister, what do you think about starting common initiatives in this field? My Group believes that in the field of new security challenges such as drones and cyberwarfare, we should start with EU forces and EU activities in the first place. Europe’s member states would be much more cost efficient on defence if in these new fields they did things together from the start. This is a task for the short term. And in the long run, we have to work towards a European army.
Finally, I want to say that the headline for our External Affairs Policy should be “what Europe is all about?” The European Union is a force for peace; Europe is a power of peace. In Iran, we showed that sanctions worked and that the agreement works. It is better to have an agreement than to send troops. Even in the Ukrainian case, we told our American friends that weapons would not create more peace. Europe is a continent that stands for peace on a global level. That is a great picture for the future.
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