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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This is a sequel that we announced in our article posted www.sustainabilitank.info/#14986 on the meetings at Columbia University on Friday, April 30, 2010.

This sequel  deals with the presentation, and the discussion following it, by the President of the European Parliament, Professor of Chemical Engineering Jerzy Buzek, formerly the Prime Minister of Poland (1997-2001). ( the speechwww.ep-president.eu/president/view/en/press/speeches/sp-2010/sp-2010-April/speeches-2010-April-3.html )

The European Parliament was created in 1979 as an eventual development from what was started May 9, 1950 – 60 years ago – by the Robert Schuman declaration that formed the coal community. The coal and steel industries of six European, previously warring countries, united to show that after WWII a new Europe was born. This led to new peaceful International relations as a way of reconciliation and eventually to the creation of the EU.

Jerzy Buzek was born on 3 July 1940 in Smilowice, a town in south-eastern Silesia which is now in the Czech Republic, to a prominent family, which participated in Polish politics in the Second Polish Republic during the period between the two World Wars. The family was part of the Polish community in Zaolzie. Buzek’s father was an engineer. After the Second World War, his family moved to Chorzów. He is a Protestant.

In 1963 Jerzy Buzek graduated from the Mechanics-and-Energy Division of the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice specializing in chemical engineering. He became a scientist in the Chemical Engineering Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Gliwice. Since 1997 he has been a professor of technical science. He is also an honorary doctor of the universities in Seoul and Dortmund. Mr. Buzek  told at the meeting that he went to study a hard science because in those days you could go nowhere with politics – politics were “of one color and falsified”he said, but in politics you can influence much more then in hard sciences he also said.

Solidarity was the first non-communist party controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country. In the 1980s it constituted a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement. The government attempted to destroy the union during the period of martial law in the early 1980s and several years of political repression, but in the end it was forced to start negotiating with the union.
The Round Table Talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed and in December 1990 Walesa was elected President of Poland.

in December 1989 Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected Prime Minister. Since 1989 Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) – a rather rightist or center-right party – won the parliamentary election in 1997, but lost the following 2001 election. Those were the years that Jerzy Buzek was Prime Minister 1997-2001.

In the 1980s Jerzy Buzek was an activist of the democratic anti-communist movements, including the legal (1980–1981 and since 1989) and underground (1981–1989) Solidarity trade union and political movement in communist Poland. He was an active organizer of the trade union’s regional and national underground authorities. He was also the chairman of the four national general meetings (1st, 4th, 5th and 6th) when the Solidarity movement was allowed to participate in the political process again.

Jerzy Buzek was a member of the Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarnosc, AWS) and co-author of the AWS’s economic program. After the 1997 elections he was elected to the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish Parliament, and was soon appointed Prime Minister of Poland. In 1999 he became the chairman of the AWS Social Movement (Ruch Spoleczny AWS) and in 2001 he became the Chairman of the Solidarity Electoral Action coalition.

After losing the parliamentary elections in 2001, he stepped back from Polish political life (although he was elected a member of the European Parliament in 2004) and focused more on his scientific work, becoming the prorector of Akademia Polonijna in Czestochowa and professor in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Opole University of Technology in Opole.

Buzek was elected to the European Parliament (MEP) from the Silesian Voivodeship, basing his candidacy only on the popularity of his name and on direct contact with the voters. He received a record number of votes, 173,389 (22.14% of the total votes in the region). His current party affiliation is with the Platforma Obywatelska, the governing party in Poland, which is a member of the European People’s Party – rather to the right in the European Parliament.

On 7 June 2009, in the European Parliament election,  Buzek was re-elected as a Member of the European Parliament from the Silesian Voivodeship constituency. Just as in the previous election, Buzek received a record number of votes in Poland: 393,117 (over 42% of the total votes in the district).

In the 2004-2009 European Parliament, he was a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, an alternate member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, a member of the Delegation to the EU–Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and an alternate delegate for the delegation for relations with the countries of Central America. He served as rapporteur on the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development, a multi-billion euro spending programme for the years 2007-2013.

On 14 July 2009, Buzek was elected President of the European Parliament with 555 votes, becoming the first person from the former Eastern Bloc and the first former Prime Minister since Emilio Colombo to gain that position. He succeeded the German Christian Democrat MEP, Hans-Gert Pöttering. He has pledged to make human rights and the promotion of the Eastern partnership two of his priorities during his term of office, which will last two and a half years until, due to a political deal, Social Democrat MEP Martin Schulz will take over.

At the meeting at Columbia University President Buzek said that we are in a time of transition period in the EU – going from treaty to treaty and enlargement. What does this mean for Europe and the US after Lisbon ? – and he will thus read from a prepared paper that said – A STRENGTHENING EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN THE TRANSATLANTIC PARTNERSHIP.

How does the EU work? – he asked. And proceeded explaining that it is in a rising curve of power in the last 25 years. We used to have a Council guided by a rotating Presidency and now we moved further on with Lisbon. To his credit, he sounded self-deprecating when mentioning that actually there will be now several Presidents. This because Lisbon still left intact that half-year-long rotating structure.

The EU Council is a system of Collective President. Europe 2020 is the project of how to learn to organize ourselves. There is still need for progress in the EU political system.

Will ever the collection of 27 proud Independent States really agree to give up some of their sovereignty to a Central Government? Will the Council agree to be a Senate to the Parliament’s House of Representatives?  How indeed can the US find its way across the Ocean and form a bridge with a body that has Three Presidents? THAT IS THE REAL QUESTION – and progress via just a strengthened Parliament will not do.

Nevertheless, Mr. Buzek pointed out that the European Supra-National level has been strengthened by doing away with the previous requirement of unanimity that is reduced now to a qualified majority. The inter-governmental contact at head of state level still exists – but it is less.

Passing on to the issue of Foreign Policy – with problems that are today global, there is the “Baroness” – Baroness Catherine Ashton or Lady Ashton – just one person now at the EU. She is a member of the Council and the Commission bringing thus one person to the position of power and the responsibility to deal in Foreign issues – and that is the point – unless the West is united – we will not be able to defend our interests in multilateralism at G8 or G20 etc institutions.

Then he digressed by saying that Transatlantic Community is not enough anymore – we need partners all over the world for a united purpose in democracy and civilization. He quoted by name an interesting  list of countries  – that we give here in the order he said them – Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa – that have to become stakeholders in the new order – they must have a sense of owner on issues like climate change. Everyone must feel that they are responsible.

Then back to the topic – on the Transatlantic economic Council – we must have a more ambitious program.

There is already freedom of flow of products, goods, capital, people in Europe – the four freedoms we have – transatlantic markets could build on these great success stories he said. The business community looks at the 800 million citizens of the Common Market in Europe. We must think of this common space of the Community.

Then came the Q & A:

Q: One big difference is that the US Congress spends 25% of the GDP but the European Parliament only 1.5% – will the Common Agriculture policy (the CAP) be decided bythe Parliament or the council?

A: The answer is not about money but on the organization. Money and budget are not important but the “community.” Two World Wars were started in Europe and we have to change. We like diversity in language – we have 23 – you have one. We say it is our strength – “Unity in Diversity.” We have buses that leave the Parliament to the regions every weekend. They come back with ideas from home. We will have a European Energy Efficiency new Policy.

The Consul-General from Austria – Ambassador Peter Brezovszky, who was Consul-General in Krakow at the time Mr. Buzek was Prime-Minster,  asked about the priorities – in democracy, on enlargement and what can the Parliament do to support parliaments in other Nations.

As Europe does not pass the budget through the Parliament such activities are more limited, but he had interaction with his meetings in Washington  (actually that was his main reason for coming to the States and I will be attaching more material on this) he had a meeting with Nancy Pelosi to develop the Transatlantic Parliamentary partnership.

There are the European Energy Community, the European External Action Service, The European Human Rights activities.

Next step in enlargement will probably involve Croatia and Iceland. He said that Iceland being located right in the middle between the US and Europe, had a hard time in deciding where they belong, but then Croatia and Turkey have problems that stem from ethnic conflicts – Croatia because of what goes on with the Serb minority and Turkey because of Cyprus. There is the Non-Visa regime and then the further potential of Bosnia-Hezegowina, Montenegro under some name, and Albania.

Mr. Buzek further evaluated European recent history in periods – the 1950-1960s as French-German reconciliation. then came the 1980-1990s as German-Polish reconciliation. Now we need not only Polish-Russian reconciliation that might have been made easier because of the dignified way Russia reacted  after the terrible  recent air accident, but also the reconciliation with further border neighbors. The real problem is what happened in Katyn 70 years ago.

Asked about an EU constitution, the President said – look  the UK is doing fine and also has no constitution.

——

These questions went on for an hour and Greece was not mentioned – this until someone observed the gap and said so!

Mr. Buzek said two words; SOLIDARITY and RESPONSIBILITY. We wish him luck and that this does the trick.

—–

As we said earlier, we found out that the reason for The EU Parliament President’s trip to the US was his opening a Washington liaison office for the Parliament with US Congress. This is the first office of the EU Parliament outside Europe. That was April 29, 2010. We have what was said there and the follow up speech at the Johns Hopkins University.

Also, the timing of this trip falls coincidentally when the EU is very much in the cross-hairs of the world economy because of the failure of Greece, the potential failure of Spain and Portugal, the danger to the EURO and what amounts – not to a strengthening of the EU, but rather to the unraveling of a system that created a common currency without having first secured a common policy. It is just inconceivable that voters in Germany can accept that their country pays tens of billions to save the people in Greece who enjoy much lower tax rates and get much better social conditions.

The same voters will not think that much of the Greek debt is actually owned by German Banks, while much of the losses of German banks came on because of a lack of regulation that did not stop them from buying low grade financial products that were inspired by the Wall Street self-enrichment gurus. Yes – we know – much of the global financial problem originated in the US, but then the EU had its own internal structure faults that created imbalances that were just as easy – foreseeable.

As Fareed Zakaria pointed out on CNN today the German voters talk of why they have to work for 45 years before being entitled to retire with a 46% pay, while a Greek worker gets 80% of his pay after only 35 years of employment. While the Greeks demonstrate now that they do not want a cut in their social conditions, the Germans by a majority of 92% say they will not let their leaders bail-out the Greeks. Is this leading to a call for the expulsion of Greece from the EU? The elimination of Greece from the EURO Club? The bailout by their own governments of German and French banks hurt by these debacles? Is it the end of the easy EU? Or are we moving into a stronger union where the member States give up some more of their independence?

All this shows that after all – the European Problematique has to do with money because they have not yet created the structure that some day may bring the EU into the China-US G2 league as a third partner to turn it into a G-3. Until then, we fear, the days of Transatlantic talk are over.

—————–

www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126436512&ft=1&f=1004

Crisis In Greece Puts E.U. At Risk

May 1, 2010

Greece’s debt woes aren’t all that’s plaguing the European economy. Spain and Portugal have also seen downgrades in their credit ratings, and the response by the European Union to the crisis is being watched around the world. Host Scott Simon speaks with Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, about the financial crisis in Europe.

National Public Radio.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

We’re joined now by Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament. He’s at the European Union’s delegation to the United Nations office in New York. President Buzek, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JERZY BUZEK (President, European Parliament): Thank you for the invitation for this interview.

SIMON: You going to bail out Greece?

Mr. BUZEK: Yes. It will be a response as usual in the European Union. Solidarity is our main slogan in the European Union for last six years. And I’m confident that the decision will be taken during next days.

SIMON: I’ve read some opinion this week that suggests this was exactly what some people worried about with the euro, that thered economic problems in one, two or three countries and you couldn’t contain them because, of course, you had a common currency. And now you have Greece’s problems dragging in the rest of the eurozone. How do you address that concern?

Mr. BUZEK: First of all, we must say that we’re at the beginning of the process of organizing our eurozone. It’s less than 10 years yet, so it’s not so easy. On the other hand, we have very deep crisis all over the world. So, it’s nothing unusual is that also some countries from the eurozone are affected by the crisis. And I’m quite sure we can manage.

SIMON: But do you also, for example, in this case have countries with very different approaches to debt and spending? Say, between Greece and Germany.

Mr. BUZEK: Yeah, it’s also obvious because we are saying in the European Union that we, of course, base our community on solidarity. But responsibility every separate member state is also very important.

SIMON: May I ask, Mr. President, did the member states of the eurozone do a good enough job in checking out the Greek economy before they joined in 2002?

Mr. BUZEK: It must be checked maybe once again by the European Commission. I wouldn’t like to say anything about that being representative of European Parliament because it was not our responsibility. It will be not our responsibility in the future as well. But of course, as members of European Parliament, we are very, very interested in everything what is connected with the recovery from crisis, exit programs, and also about Greek’s crisis.

SIMON: So assuming a bailout for Greece, you think that that will have the effect of improving other particularly plagued economies in, let’s say, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and that means they would be less likely to have to ever request a bailout?

Mr. BUZEK: I’m optimistic because if we solve, and I’m sure we will solve the problem of Greece, it will be much easier in other countries. I know very well. I talked to Mr. Prime Minister Papandreou a few weeks ago and they prepared a very tough, difficult program for Greece. It will be not easy, but if you start working, it would be great progress in Greece economy and then will be no danger for the whole eurozone.

SIMON: Jerzy Buzek, who’s president of the European Parliament, joining us from New York. Mr. President, thanks so much.

Mr. BUZEK: Thank you much.

———————————————————————–

Press Releases

Buzek to open the European Parliament Liaison Office with US Congress
Washington DC – Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Thursday 29 April European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will formally open the European Parliament’s new Liaison Office with the US Congress, designed to help forge closer links between European parliamentarians and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  The Liaison Office is the first office of the European Parliament in a country outside the EU.

The office will be opened by President Buzek at midday (US, East Coast time) on Thursday.

EP President Jerzy Buzek said:

“We have many ideas for deepening our relations.  The main purpose of the office is to build a much closer partnership between the European Parliament and Congress as the European Parliament is more powerful after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU and the US need to be more coherent and well informed on legislation and political activity.  If we work together in advance of legislation we can improve the outcome for citizens and business in a huge transatlantic market.

Together, we must face the challenges that confront us across the Atlantic, from climate change to energy security, from maintaining free trade to improving global governance.”

Background

EP President Buzek has been in Washington since Monday for key meetings with the US administration including Vice-President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and Speaker Pelosi.  President Buzek and will travel to New York for meetings at the UN, including with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will take place on Friday 30 April.

* * *

The Director of the new European Parliament Liaison Office with the US Congress is Piotr Nowina-Konopka, Ph.D.

Tel +1 202 862 4731
Cell +1 202 431 9433

Office details:
2175 K Street, NW
Washington DC 20037, USA

 www.europarl.europa.eu/us/ – website of the EP – Congress Liaison Office

For further information:
Inga Rosi?ska, Spokeswoman
Mobile: +32 (0)498 981 354
Richard Freedman, Press Officer
Mobile:+32 (0) 498 98 32 39

—————————————–

Press Releases

Buzek to open the European Parliament Liaison Office with US Congress
Washington DC – Thursday, April 29, 2010
On Thursday 29 April European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will formally open the European Parliament’s new Liaison Office with the US Congress, designed to help forge closer links between European parliamentarians and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  The Liaison Office is the first office of the European Parliament in a country outside the EU. The office will be opened by President Buzek at midday (US, East Coast time) on Thursday.

EP President Jerzy Buzek said:

“We have many ideas for deepening our relations.  The main purpose of the office is to build a much closer partnership between the European Parliament and Congress as the European Parliament is more powerful after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU and the US need to be more coherent and well informed on legislation and political activity.  If we work together in advance of legislation we can improve the outcome for citizens and business in a huge transatlantic market.

Together, we must face the challenges that confront us across the Atlantic, from climate change to energy security, from maintaining free trade to improving global governance.”

Background

EP President Buzek has been in Washington since Monday for key meetings with the US administration including Vice-President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and Speaker Pelosi.  President Buzek and will travel to New York for meetings at the UN, including with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will take place on Friday 30 April.

* * *
Notes to Editors:

The Director of the new European Parliament Liaison Office with the US Congress is Piotr Nowina-Konopka, Ph.D.

Tel +1 202 862 4731
Cell +1 202 431 9433

Office details:
2175 K Street, NW
Washington DC 20037, USA

 www.europarl.europa.eu/us/ – website of the EP – Congress Liaison Office

* * *

For further information:
Inga Rosi?ska, Spokeswoman
Mobile: +32 (0)498 981 354
Richard Freedman, Press Officer
Mobile:+32 (0) 498 98 32 39

— — —

President Buzek on “The New European Parliament: Politics and Power in Today’s European Union” at the School of Advanced International Studies – Johns Hopkins University
Washington DC – Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Students,
Dear Professors,
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am delighted to be able to address you today. As a professor myself, I always feel at home when I come to a university. My passion has always been knowledge and passing on knowledge to the next generation, my activity in politics only came later on in life.

I grew up in a system where art was censored, where history was falsified, and where politics had only one colour. This is why I chose the hard sciences and not political science – because even the Communists had to accept that ‘one plus one equals two’.

Or at least they accepted that most of the time!

Dear Friends,

I would like to make a few remarks about the political system in the European Union, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, and what that Treaty means for both Europe and the United States.

I will keep my talk fairly short. After that, I would be delighted to take questions or comments. I would be especially interested to hear your own views on these issues.

=European Parliament=

First, let me say a word about the European Parliament, which I now have the honour to chair. The Parliament has been on a rising curve of power over the last quarter century. The Lisbon Treaty takes that power to a new level.

Already in most of the routine areas of law-making – like the single market, transport, the environment, employment, development policy, and intellectual property – the Parliament has been co-equal with the Council of Ministers for many years. It has long enjoyed a right of veto over EU law – first introduced by the Maastricht Treaty 17 years ago.

However, now with the Lisbon Treaty, we move a step further. We are co-equal with the Council in law-making on agriculture and fisheries, international trade policy, and justice and home affairs. Nearly all international agreements, including all trade agreements, now need the Parliament’s explicit approval. We have a right of veto. We have already seen the implications of that on final data transfer (SWIFT or TFTP).

In effect, like in the United States, we now have lower and an upper chamber – the European Parliament and the Council – in a single, bicameral legislature.

=EU Political System=

In parallel, things have changed on the executive side. The meetings of heads of state and government – the European Council – have been split off to become a separate, formal institution, chaired by Herman Van Rompuy. This body gives overall guidance to the Union, setting the big, long-term priorities for the Union. The European Commission remains the administration, with the special right to propose legislation.

Simply stated, the Council of Ministers is now the counterpart to the European Parliament, as Europe’s legislative and budgetary authority. The Commission and the European Council jointly form the executive.

In this system, the member states still remain very important, but the European level – the supranational level – has been strengthened and the exercise of power is shaped more than ever by the ‘Community method’.

Now qualified majority voting, not unanimity, is the norm in the Council of Ministers. Now co-decision between the Council and Parliament is the norm.

The ‘intergovernmental method’ still has its place, but in a smaller sphere – in decision-making on foreign and security policy, the financial resources of the Union, and some aspects of monetary union.

=Foreign Policy Structures=

We have also put in place new arrangements in the field of foreign policy. We have a new High Representative, also Vice President of the Commission – Baroness Cathy Ashton. She chairs the Foreign Affairs Council and is a member of the European Council: she is thus the only EU person officially in three institutions – the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Council.

The external departments of the Commission and Council will be merged into a new European External Action Service. This will give the EU a more coherent structure for developing and implementing foreign policy – and present a more united face to our partners and allies around the world.

=Transatlantic Perspectives=

Dear Friends,

So we have a new design to the political system of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty should help Europe better coordinate its policies both internally and externally, and to develop a better way of dealing with the rest of the world.

Critical to our success is the Transatlantic Partnership.
We need each other more than ever before. Neither of us is big enough in today’s global world is achieve our goals on our own.

In this second decade of the 21st century, the relative power of both Europe and the United States – and the rest of the West – is already decreasing.

By the year 2025, OECD countries are expected produce only 40% of the world’s output, compared to well over half at the moment. Asia’s share will increase to 38%, practically on a par with that of the OECD.

The rise of China, India and other new players makes this clear to Europe. In the United States, over the last decade, you have discovered the limits of American power.

How are we to respond? Together, I believe, that we need to take the lead in building and shaping a new form of global governance. I have always liked how my friend Bob Zoellick has put it – that we need to ‘modernise multilateralism’.

The hard truth is that unless the West is united, we will lose the ability to defend and advance our interests and values. If we are united, we can help define international responses, in the G8 or WTO or elsewhere.

Of course, we will not be able to solve all major international challenges on our own. We will need to cooperate – and should want to cooperate – with a range of new partners around the world. Our interdependence can and should make us stronger.

We need to use the Euro-Atlantic partnership to change the way global governance functions. The United States and Europe should play a key leadership role in defining the principles and structures of this new multipolar and multilateral world.

In such a world, America and Europe should still serve as an axis of global stability and enlightened values. I believe we need to use this partnership to put in place the right policies and the right institutions on a world-wide scale.

We all know the difficult challenges we face today – economic insecurity, energy independence, climate change, migration, money-laundering, piracy, and of course terrorism. Common action on these fronts is essential. And in addressing these issues, we will need to find ways of bringing on board, in different ways, Russia, China, India, Brazil and the other new regional powers.

They have to become stakeholders in the new world order, or disorder – so that they can expect to have a genuine sense of ownership in the way policy is set.

The time to do this is now, whilst Europe and America are still powerful enough to make a difference. If we fail, the 21st century will be a century of insecurity and instability for all of us.

Dear Colleagues,

Our transatlantic relationship is already very strong – we have the biggest trade and investment flows in the world. We share the same values – and very many of our interests are the same.

We do have some issues on specific areas of legislation and regulation. You all know the cases – Boeing vs Airbus; Chlorinated Chicken; the REACH directive and recently SWIFT.

We can address those in the Transatlantic Economic Council, but I think we should think bigger than that. We need to set ourselves a more ambitious challenge for the 21st century.

In ten years time let us implement a genuine transatlantic single market, based on the four freedoms which already exist in Europe – the free movement of goods, services, capital and (yes) people.

I would add a fifth freedom, the free movement of knowledge across the Atlantic.

A transatlantic market could build on one of the European Union’s greatest success stories – the single market that we have building continuously for over 50 years.

Yesterday I addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and challenged the business community to put forward their ideas and proposals to achieve such a free market, to look at both sides of the Atlantic as one space of 800 million citizens.

Today I challenge you, the next generation of Americans, to think of a Euro-Atlantic community – a common space where you can live, work and study on either side of this inner sea which is the Atlantic Ocean. That may seem a dream, but our challenge is to change the context and create a new reality.

Next weekend – on 9th May – we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the famous declaration in Paris by Robert Schuman that lead to the European Coal and Steel Community.

Jean Monnet, who wrote that declaration, once said that ‘everybody is ambitious. The question is whether he is ambitious to be or ambitious to do’.

The pooling of sovereignty over coal and steel, which at the time was the core of a nation’s industry, was an incredibly bold and ambitious project. The six countries that took part changed Europe’s face and Europe’s future.

Today, let us also be ambitious to do. Let us dream not just of a strong Transatlantic Partnership – let us create a genuine Transatlantic Community.

=============

Europe unravels in a tangle of national interests.

By Philip Stephens

Published: April 29 2010

Pinn illustration

Watching the slow-motion train crash that is the Greek debt crisis invites the question as to whatever happened to European solidarity. Listening to politicians in Berlin explain that parsimonious German voters will not stomach a bail-out of their spendthrift continental cousins offers only half an answer.

There is more to the story than an angry collision between Greek profligacy and German moral superiority. Behind the proximate threat lies a more unsettling truth. The crisis is symptom as well as cause. For all its upheavals, there used to be something reassuringly ineluctable about the European Union. Now the enterprise is beginning to unravel.

Greece’s predicament, and the response of its eurozone partners, holds dangers on many levels: a sovereign default within the single currency; contagion as markets test the resilience of Portugal, Spain and Ireland; and a breakdown of the political trust and mutual support mechanisms on which the monetary union depends.

As my FT colleague Alan Beattie observed in a searing commentary earlier this week, recent events have underlined also the sheer incompetence of those charged with stewardship of the eurozone.

Given Angela Merkel’s central role, perhaps we should not have been surprised at the vacillation. Berlin’s stumbling response to the collapse of Lehman Brothers provided a template for the ineptitude that has again left the authorities playing catch-up with unforgiving markets.

Lest I am accused by my German friends of taking the side of the sinner against the sinned against, Ms Merkel has right on her side in saying that Athens must not be rewarded for disdaining its solemn obligations to its partners.

It is no use writing cheques unless Greece has a credible fiscal plan.

As Berlin should have learnt, however, there comes a point when finger-wagging becomes self-defeating. The price of righteousness turns out to be chaos; and chaos does not discriminate – as the German banks holding billions of euros of Greek sovereign debt well understand. We sometimes have to live with moral hazard.

More worrying is what all this tells us about the fundamental cohesion of the Union. Until quite recently if someone asked what the EU would look like, say, 20 years hence my reply was that its essential contours would be pretty much unchanged. Sure, my argument would have run, the guiding purpose had changed with the end of the cold war, the reunification of Germany and enlargement to central and eastern Europe. But a collection of middle-ranking powers with common borders, values and interests had sensibly concluded that they were better together than apart.

The rise of new powers – China, India, Brazil and the rest – presaged a much diminished role for Europe on the global stage. Proud nations such as France, Germany, Britain or Spain would not surrender their identities; but they would pursue their interests collectively. Maddening as it could often be, “Europe” would always be around.

That is what I used to think. Even now, I still believe the logic is compelling. Look at any problem touching the peoples of Europe – from crises in the international financial system to global warming, from terrorism and uncontrolled migration to a newly assertive Russia – and they tell the same story. Europeans must act together if they want to exert influence.

For all that, Europe no longer carries the stamp of inevitability. Quite suddenly, it has become almost as easy to foresee a future in which the Union fractures. The risk is not so much of a great rupture – though if Greece defaults the immediate shocks will be profound – but of the atrophy that flows from the absence of political leadership.

European governments still pay lip service to the logic of co-operation; they are no longer willing or able – sometimes both – to admit its implications. They know where their national, and the continent’s, strategic interests lie, but they lack the purpose to marry them.

Germany relishes instead the chance to become a “normal” country, separating what it sees as its national from the European interest. Helmut Kohl’s historical insights are forgotten in the insistence that German taxpayers should not be asked to remain the continent’s paymaster. So too are Berlin’s long-term interests in European-wide political stability and in open markets for its exports.

France struggles with the dynamics of a Union in which more Europe no longer necessarily means more France. Nicolas Sarkozy’s admirable energy is unconnected to strategic purpose. Britain, as ever, stands half on the sidelines. Italy, led by Silvio Berlusconi, has removed itself from influence.

There have been moments of stasis before. But the rules have changed. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism have turned an enterprise of necessity into one of choice. If the Union falls into disrepair everyone will still be the loser; but the threat no longer seems an existential one.

The EU has become a victim of one of the awkward paradoxes of globalisation. Even as it robs nation states of power, global interdependence increases the domestic pressure on national politicians to shelter voters from the insecurities of a borderless world.

The response of Europe’s politicians has been to sacrifice the strategic to the tactical. They boast that they can “reclaim” power from the EU – and promise they will not be pushed around by Brussels. This explains Ms Merkel’s Germany-first approach to the single currency; and the reluctance of other leaders to match pieties about Europe’s role in the world with anything resembling common policies.

There is nothing strange or wrong about politicians pursuing national interests. That is what they are paid for. The problem for the EU is that governments now see this as a zero-sum game.

During the era of postwar reconciliation and the cold war the coincidence of national and European interests spoke for itself. Europe’s waning influence in a world no longer owned by the west means that the convergence is as powerful as it has ever been. But without the threat of war or invasion, it is harder to identify. It requires leaders of stature to make a case to their electorates. Look around the continent and there are no such politicians in sight.

philip.stephens@ft.com

More columns at www.ft.com/philipstephens

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Speech by Professor Jerzy Buzek,President of the European Parliament,Columbia University, New York City
New York – Friday, April 30, 2010

Dear Professors,
Dear Students,
Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

When I look back upon my life I sometimes have to remind myself of the journey we in Central and Eastern Europe took to get here.

As some of you may know my true vocation has always been that of a scientist and academic. I am an Engineer not a political scientist. The science of politics came later in life but my passion has always been knowledge and passing on knowledge to the next generation.

I grew up in a system where art was censored, where history was falsified, and politics had only one colour. I chose science, because even the Communists had to accept the iron discipline of mathematics.

One of your greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, once said that “you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time”.

The Communist regimes tried to fool all of the people all of the time, but they forgot that liberty, that justice, that human rights, that dignity and solidarity will always beat a lie.

With the entrance of ten new member states to the European Union in 2004 and Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, we have reunited our continent, but more importantly we have reconciled our continent.

Today, we live in a different European Union, one where the President of the European Parliament is from a country that not long ago would imprison me for speaking to you freely, and would probably not give me a passport to come to Columbia University!

Dear Friends,
Over a year into the new Obama administration and now that the new European Parliament, Commission and other office-holders are in place, I think that this is a good moment to reflect on our Euro-Atlantic partnership.

First, let me say a word about the European Parliament. We have been on a rising curve of power over the last quarter century. The new Lisbon Treaty takes that power to the next level.

Already, in most of the routine areas of law-making – such as transport, the environment, employment, the single market, development, intellectual property – the European Parliament has been co-equal with the Council of Ministers for many years. It has long enjoyed a right of veto over EU law.

Now, with Lisbon, we are also co-equal with the Council in agriculture, international trade, and justice and home affairs. Nearly all international agreements, including all trade agreements, now need the Parliament’s approval. We already saw the implications of that on SWIFT which the European Parliament rejected in February.

In effect, like in the United States, we now have an upper chamber and a lower chamber – the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament – in a single legislative system.

Dear Colleagues,
So now that we have an enlarged European Union with a new design to its political system, what are we to use this power in Europe – and your power in the United States – to achieve?

The Lisbon Treaty will help Europe better coordinate its policies both internally and externally – and we hope, help both of us to develop a new way of dealing with the rest of the world.

I believe that together we need a new form of global governance. We need to ‘modernise multilaterism’ – as my friend Bob Zoellick has put it. This is something I have said over the past couple of days in Washington.

In this second decade of the 21st century, the relative power of both Europe and the United States – and the rest of the West – is already decreasing. By the year 2025, OECD countries will produce only 40% of the world’s wealth, as compared to 55% in 2000. Asia’s share will increase to 38%, practically on a par with that of the OECD.

The hard truth is that unless the West is united, we will lose the ability to defend our interests and values. Even then, we will no longer be able to solve major international challenges on our own.

We need to cooperate – with each other, but also with our partners around the world. Our interdependence can and should make us stronger and should not be seen as a threat but as an opportunity.

We need to use the Euro-Atlantic partnership to change the way global governance functions. The United States and Europe can and must take a leadership role in defining the principles and structures of this new multipolar, multilateral world.

We all know the difficult challenges we face today – economic insecurity, energy independence, climate change, migration, terrorism. Common action on these fronts is essential.

And in addressing these issues, we need to find ways of bringing on board Russia, China, India, Brazil and the other new regional powers. They must have a sense of ownership since they too are stakeholders in this world’s governance.

I often use the small example of combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden. For the first time, Chinese war ships operate next to Russian, American, European and South Korean vessels. Why?

Because these pirates are a threat to the 30 000 ships which sail through this passage. Ships which are bound for Europe, and Asia.

But in such a world, America and Europe must still serve as an axis of global stability and enlightened values. We are home to the world’s most successful democracies. I believe we need to use this partnership to put in place the right policies and the right institutions on a global scale.

We represent 60% of the world’s GDP. If we have the right policies, the rest will follow. If we fail to work together the 21st century will be a century of insecurity and instability for all of us.

I believe fundamentally that the EU’s unique model of sharing sovereignty – of promoting common solidarity and common responsibility – is working well and can be a model for the rest of the world.

Dear Colleagues,
But we have to think bigger than that.

Next week is the 60th Anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, when six countries pooled sovereignty over coal and steel, making war between them virtually impossible and laying the foundation of today’s EU.

Schuman said that ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”  He was right.
.
We also need concrete achievements for our Euro-Atlantic relationship. It is time for us to think of creating a true transatlantic free market, so that the Atlantic Ocean becomes an inner sea, a mare nostrum, between America and Europe.

Our trade relations are already 95% problem free, we respect each others regulations, customs and laws. Our legislators and our executives talk and negotiate with each other non-stop.

It is time to create a space of freedom so that 800 million people can benefit from our relationship. An area based on the four freedoms we have in Europe – free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

I am convinced that this should be the next step in the evolution of our partnership. It is a dream, but it is up to you, the next generation of Europeans and Americans to make it a reality.

Thank you for your attention.

 www.ep-president.eu/president/vie…

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