Visit of José Manuel Barroso at the Bucerius Law School, in Hamburg
End production: 24/02/2012 First transmission: 25/02/2012
On 24 February 2012, José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, was at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg where he gave a speech entitled "The EU on its way to a political and economic union" and discussed with law students during one hour.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (in ENGLISH) saying that he is pleased to be there because he also studied law and because as he is used to say, the European Union is a Union of the rule of law, of values, and a union of peoples that are united by principles of law. Saying that addressing this audience in the city is symbolic of the work, the challenges and the opportunities which Europe faces; as Hamburg is the city built on openness of trade of people and ideas which is the foundation not only of the city but also of the European Union as a whole.
Making the comparison between his generation and today's young generation which has the opportunity to think of Europe as a whole when in the past his generation was limited to countries in its thoughts.
Talking about Europe in the world through 3 fundamental questions:
- Is this the time to be considering political and economic union in Europe?
- How far do we need to go in building economic union?
- Is a political Union the natural counterpart of the economic union?
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (in ENGLISH): answering to the first question, saying that it is precisely the moment when they should be looking to the long term as it is only by doing so that they will find a sustainable solution to the crisis and the building of a EU for the future. Among the immediate challenges that we face, we can identify unsustainable levels of public debt, high private debt, and an overall lack of competitiveness with the rest of the world as well as among European countries. Saying that they can undertake short measures to relieve the immediate impact, however all are structural issues which require a longer term solution. He believes that the solution lies in more and not less Europe and this has always been the future of the EU to maximize the benefits to the citizens it is necessary to engage in deeper integration. Saying that crisis in Europe is not a new phenomenon, as a solution to past crisis has been to deepen the internal market and the European integration in order to create more benefits to the European citizens - this was the time when the single currency was envisaged to bring further benefits to the citizens - as the Commission clearly states it the deepening of economic integration today is the solution out of the current crisis. They have monetary union and need to move towards an economic union, they need to complete the work that was started basically at Maastricht.
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (in ENGLISH): Secondly; how far do they need to go in building economic union? They have a long term vision but this must be based on short term stability. They are pursuing a strategy which will achieve this, a strategy which will allow for a long term structural reform rather than the illusion of a quick fix. Mentionning 6 of the 7 elements of the strategy:
-Bringing order to the public finances in Europe;
-Measures to boost growth and employment (targeted investments, deepening internal market, etc.);
-A reform of the financial sector;
-A system of support to Member States that are more vulnerable to short term speculation;
-A lasting solution to the Greek debt crisis;
-A stronger and more effective European governance;
Saying that these measures are far reaching and will involve far greatest scrutiny of the Member States and their actions and raises the question of democratic accountability.
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (in ENGLISH): saying that his third question precisely asks "Is a political Union the natural counterpart of the economic union?", saying that he believes it is. Saying that some claim that the EU is undemocratic and in particular in its handling of the crisis, an assumption he utterly rejects as there is no single universal model of democracy should be allied and indeed the 27 Member States are democracies but they have 27 different models. The European Union itself is a 28 democratic model, they have a directly elected European Parliament, elected directly by their citizens. They have a Council which consists of representatives of each of the directly elected national governments of the EU Member States. And they have also European Council where Heads of States and Governments take strategic decisions together with the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council. As for the Commission, its members are proposed by the democratic and elected governments of Europe and then approved after public hearing by the directly elected Parliament. And even before that, the President of the EC after being approved by the European Council is directly elected by the European Parliament. Saying that in fact there is legitimacy and their work is under public scrutiny of the EP. In addition they have other institutions and different entities like Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions which ensure that social partners and key stakeholders have a legally define voice in the elaboration of the European policy. All this is a unique structure but the European Union is also a unique organization because they are a union of states and a union of citizens. Saying that they are not a super state, but neither are they a classic international organization. They are something completely new but by far the deepest and most successful case of economic and political integration in world history. For this reason, he always insist on the role of the community method and the institutions of the Union including what we have now achieved in the negotiations on the treaty on stability coordination and governance for the economic and monetary union, he says. Since unanimity was not possible for changing current treaties, Member States decide to go to a separate treaty for 25 not 27 Member States. He regrets this, however it is important that the signatories have shown the necessary solidarity to seek to work together to put the crisis behind them. It is important to note that instead of having just a treaty for the Euro Area, the 17 Member States, almost all the other Member States wanted to join this movement which shows how strong the centripetal forces of the European integration are. Saying that as the societies evolve so must also the democratic structures adapt, as they do now through the Lisbon treaty.
So yes they are making progress towards the European political union, it is not going to be achieved from one day to the other, as it is stated in the Schuman declaration. Saying that Europe is not going to be achieved only by one step, it is more a step by step approach, and when looking carefully, at least in the capitals of the Member States, the debate is how far and how deep we are going in the next step of integration. What is important today is to increase the confidence in the capability of Europe to overcome difficulties. Concluding with a quote by Thomas Mann: "If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere and you even smell it." And by saying that Europe is also a question of feelings.