11 June, 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,
Europe is turning the page. This is a time when Europe as a whole is discussing its future. Several important arguments were heard in this room. Since World War II, Europe has become a different power. It has become – if you allow me to use these words – a moral and social power. Europe is the main area where human rights and social achievements are protected and promoted. This great European power, which we call “soft power”, is in reality overshadowed by great world developments. It is also overshadowed by Europe’s weaknesses.
Over the past few years, however, we have come to realise that what we need is a strong Europe, a Europe capable of making decisions, of implementing them, of continuously increasing them. There are major political issues in the Balkans, in the Middle East, in the Caucasus, in Africa, many areas of the planet are even struck by significant natural disasters, which now render Europe’s presence and intervention necessary and constantly increase it. And while this is happening, Europe is going through a period of introspection for all the reasons heard in this room. This introspection was accentuated by the problems and long delays caused by the French and Dutch referenda on the Constitutional Treaty.
Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,
There is an undeniable need for a stronger Europe. The Lisbon Treaty responds to that need, but I dare say not fully. It was heard that this is the result of a compromise. It is the result of a compromise, but isn’t compromise – isn’t understanding – the way in which Europe has been advancing for more than half a century? Didn’t we lay down our weapons in favour of discussion? Didn’t we put wars behind us in an effort to find the golden section for our future? What else other than a historic compromise, a political compromise could the great steps forward that Europe has taken be linked with?
The Treaty of Lisbon, which we are now called upon to ratify, has ensured Greece’s active participation and safeguarded the bulk of the balances struck in the Constitutional Treaty. Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, Europe is becoming more democratic, more effective, and more reliable on the world stage. More democratic – and I think that the overwhelming majority of the Hellenic Parliament will agree with me – because the European Parliament’s role is strengthened and the role of national Parliaments is enhanced. They will now be an integral part of the EU decision-making process as guardians of the subsidiarity principle. Their view will be taken into account from the very first stages of the whole process. An as I said, I am absolutely certain that the Hellenic Parliament will act based on both our country’s interests and those of the great European family, to which we belong.
However, dear colleagues, this new Treaty not only renders the Union more democratic, but also more effective. From now on, most EU decisions will be made by qualified majority.
You already know the double majority principle: 55% of member states and 65% of the total EU population. In order for a small number of states not to be able to obstruct decision-making, it is stipulated that a veto minority should include at least four member states. Otherwise, even when the population criterion is not met, it will be considered that a qualified majority has been attained.
It remains to be seen – all is not rosy in this Treaty, and I don't want to hide that from the Hellenic Parliament – how a balance can be struck between the President of the Commission and the President of the rotating Presidency.
Greece wants the President of the rotating Presidency to continue to play a substantial role. Of course, the most decisive factor for the success of this institution will be the personality of the President of the European Council. That is why I am categorically stating before this Parliament that Greece will only support a candidate from a country that is an active member in all the Union’s activities.
Finally, changes in the CFSP will give added weight to the European Union. With regard to this area, I would like to stress that there is a permanent structured cooperation on defense. The Treaty provides for more categories of crisis management missions, and what is more, ladies and gentlemen MPs, for the first time, a solidarity clause and, most importantly, a mutual assistance clause are provided for. I think that the members of the Hellenic Parliament realise how important such a clause is for a country like Greece.
I already explained why Europe is becoming more democratic and more effective. It is becoming more reliable at the same time. Its ability to speak with one voice; the speed of decision-making, which was the major problem faced regularly by our peoples; the political legitimacy of decisions, thanks to the participation of the European and national Parliaments; respect for human rights, for which Europe is the main advocate; and finally the new weight given to the Common Foreign and Security Policy – all of this significantly strengthens Europe’s presence and its efficiency on the world stage.
In order to achieve these objectives of a more democratic, more efficient and more reliable Europe, ladies and gentlemen colleagues, Greece followed a policy of principles and strategic choices. It is by following these principles and our strategic choices – since the time of Konstantinos Karamanlis – that all of Greece’s governments managed to bring Greece to the heart of European integration.
Ladies and gentlemen MPs, the world is changing, and the Greek people know that the European Union is their major support on all the issues of concern to them, despite its weaknesses, its difficulties; despite all the setbacks. They also know very well that this Treaty is not perfect. Yes, it is a compromise, but it is a great step forward.
It is my conviction that we have the obligation not to hide behind our petty party interests, and instead, with courage and in all sincerity, to tell the Greek people about the merits of this Europe – rather than following the well-known policy of placing the blame for all ills somewhere else, whereas we are the only ones who know the magical solutions to every problem.