Meeting with French MEPs
Paris, September 5 , 2011
EU ECONOMIC GOVERNANCE
What are the priorities? (…) Firstly, in the face of the turmoil I mentioned just now, we must absolutely have available the package of six texts on strengthening economic government that was decided upon by the European Council on 21 July, not to mention the initiatives taken by the [German] Chancellor and French President on 16 August.
I know there’s been heated discussion between the Council and the Parliament. You obviously won’t be surprised if I say the Council has taken many steps forward in the Parliament’s direction. So I really hope this package will now be adopted without delay. I appeal to you to work to that end, because the markets are extremely sensitive and we must demonstrate our credibility.
The second priority is to strengthen Schengen governance, which is also extremely important for us. I’m happy that the Commission responded favourably to the call made by France in particular and by others. Let me remind you that, for us, the principle of free movement within the Schengen Area is a founding principle of the EU, so there’s no question of casting doubt on it. On the other hand, we must find a remedy for a number of malfunctions and ensure that Schengen governance is more effective, that the assessment of results is more regular and accurate, that Frontex equips itself with the resources to function and finally that, when a country clearly fails to comply with its obligations, a safeguard clause can operate. I hope this whole mechanism can be adopted.
The finances – both the 2012 budget and the Financial Perspectives 2014-2020 – are also central issues on which the European Parliament has a decision-making role. We can’t ask each of our countries to follow certain rules, even write them into their constitutions in order to bring deficits under control, and then let European spending get out of hand. However much people explain to us that it only represents 1% of European GDP, the fact remains we’re in such a tight situation that everyone must keep to the same discipline. So we have this 2012 target of +2.02% above the present level, which takes inflation into account. And for 2014, we’ll most probably have heated discussions, because the Commission’s current proposals don’t strike us as acceptable.
For France – and here, too, I hope I can rely on the solidarity of all French MEPs – maintaining appropriations from the Common Agricultural Policy at the 2013 level in current euros is a non-negotiable red line.
We’ll also have to make disciplinary efforts on other budgetary areas; I won’t go into detail; you know more about it than I do. We’re not hostile to the own resources system being reformed a little to make it fairer and more transparent – the rebates system has become completely opaque – provided that, if there are new taxes and particularly a financial transactions tax, it acts as a replacement and isn’t complementary. There, too, there’s a huge amount of work to do with the European Parliament.
I’ll finish these brief remarks by mentioning some more political subjects. True, everything I’ve mentioned is political, but these are, in a way, more diplomatic subjects.
First of all, enlargement. We’ve contributed a lot to finding a solution with Croatia, who’s therefore on the road to accession. As you know, we have a very clear position on enlargement to all the Balkans countries, which are at the heart of Europe and which, as they meet the required conditions, are destined to join us. We’re working in particular with Serbia, who has taken steps forward but has yet to sort out her relationship with Kosovo.
Beyond this, on the other hand, you’re aware of France’s position. It applies to Turkey and all the partners in the Eastern Partnership; we don’t believe the European Union, given its difficulties, currently has the capacity to enlarge to those countries. I don’t know what will happen in a few decades’ time, but for the moment that’s our position and I upheld it at the “Gymnich”, the informal meeting of foreign ministers held in Sopot. I said clearly at that meeting that, during the Eastern Partnership summit to be held in Warsaw in a few weeks’ time, France doesn’t want any prospects held out to our eastern partners, because we don’t have the capacity.
UNION FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN
A quick word about the South. You know how absolutely strategic we believe the southern neighbourhood is for us, and that’s why we are pressing to ensure the proportion of two-thirds to the South, one-third to the East is respected in the use of the European Union’s neighbourhood funding, while trying to relaunch the Union for the Mediterranean. A new Secretary General has taken up office in Barcelona. He’s a man of high calibre, a former Moroccan senior official, Mr. Amrani, and we’ve given him a road map so that he can work concretely.
COMMON SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY
Finally, I’d briefly like to mention – because it’s a subject that’s close to my heart – the Common Security and Defence Policy. What’s happened in Libya has clearly shown that – even though the bulk of the operation is being conducted by European countries – Europe [alone] didn’t have the means to plan and conduct an operation of this kind. This, too, I think, must spur us to move a little further on the Common Security and Defence Policy, which has already made considerable progress, because the European Union has been capable of completing a number of operations successfully: more than 20 or so, including close to 10 military operations in recent years. We must move ahead; that, too, is complicated. (…)./.