When we had a president, we’d see a giant global political figure, the man that would be the political leader for 500 million people, the man that would represent all of us on the world stage, the man whose job was so important that of course you’re paid more than President Obama. Well, I’m afraid what we got was you. And I’m sorry, but after that performance earlier that you gave, and I don’t want to be rude, but you know really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk. And the question that I want to ask, the question that I want to ask, that we’re all going to ask is who are you? I’d never heard of you. Nobody in Europe had ever heard of you. I would like to ask you, President, who voted for you and what mechanism? Oh, I know democracy is not popular with you. And what mechanisms-
Mr. President. Mr. President.
… do the peoples of Europe have to remove you? Is this European democracy? Well, I sense though, that you’re competent and capable and dangerous. And I have no doubt that it’s your intention to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and of the European nation states. You appear to have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states. Perhaps that’s because you come from Belgium, which of course is pretty much a non-country. But since you took over, we’ve seen Greece reduced to nothing more than a protectorate. Sir, you have no legitimacy in this job at all. And I can say with confidence that I can speak on behalf of the majority of the British people in saying, we don’t know you, we don’t want you, and the sooner you will put out to grass, the better.
Well, as you said, Mr. President, you wouldn’t like to be rude and I prefer to to to go ahead with the statement. Mr. President [inaudible 00:02:11] if you could. Yeah.
Mr. Farage, would you agree we should apply article nine of the treaty? You can leave Europe by using that and then you’ll be happy.
Yeah. Okay, thank you. Madam, Mr… sorry. What is?
Point of order, please. It’s possible, yeah, of course.
[inaudible 00:00:02:46], the President.
I’m very disappointed with you President Buzek. It is not acceptable that in this parliament, a group chairman not only criticize the president of the council, but calls him a wet rag. And I expect you President, to call this person to order. It’s not right that this man should be able to trample over the dignity of this house. And chose it though, it’s not just a case of allowing the UK to leave the E.U. It’d be better for Mr. Farage to resign if the European Union and the European Parliament are such bad things in his eyes.
Thank you, President. Just as I have said to President Farage previously two months ago, and today I repeat this, these type of addresses, which are character assassinations of individuals, are inadmissible in the European Parliament. And I spoke to Mr. Farage about it and I drew his attention to it. Mr. Schultz, I’d like to say that this is how I work and that’s my way of going about it.
This is personal statement? The floor is yours.
You may not like what I say, but just consider your behavior. You after the Irish people in a referendum voted no, said that our group had opened, by supporting the no vote, that we’d opened the door to fascism. You said that we had behaved as a group in the parliament like Hitler and the Nazis in the Reichstag. We’ve been called by Danny Comb, bend it, mentally weak. It can’t be one way.
This is not personal statement. Mr. President Farage, it is not personal statement. I am very sorry. It was not personal statement. We must keep order and all the regulations of our parliament.
I’m delighted to have this opportunity to take part in a debate with you, not only to report on the informal meeting of the heads of state and of government of two weeks ago. It was after all, an informal meeting with no formal conclusions to report. But also to take this opportunity to meet with you early in my mandate. Had I waited until the first formal opportunity to report on a European Council that taking place at the end of March, I would not have come before this parliament before the end of April, some five months after my designation as President of the European Council. Let me therefore take this opportunity to lay out how I see my role and function. I shall spend a few minutes on this so as not to have to return to this on future occasions.
There is of course always been a presidency of the European Council, not the same thing as the President of Europe, as some media put it. So what has changed? Three small things, but which will together over time have the potential to make a significant difference. First is the element of continuity. Past president changed every six months, that is after every second or third meeting. There was little opportunity to develop a longterm strategy. Our partners in third countries, were bemused as having to meet a different head of government every time they had the summit with the European Union. Greater continuity is fundamental to building relationships and carrying out a serious task.
Second is the full time nature of the job. Previous presidents had to simultaneously manage their own national government. These meant that, at best, they could only deal halftime with European affairs. By creating a full time post dedicated to the running of the European Council and it’s followup, including external representation, the European Council now has a better chance to play its role within the European institutional system.
Third, there is the fact that heads of state and of government now choose who they want, who to hold this position rather than it happening haphazardly from an arbitrary rotation system. I hope this too all goes well for the support that the President can count on. These three changes are all pragmatic improvements to the previous institutional architecture. But taken together with the fact that the European Council now becomes an institution in its own right, they give the European Council a better chance of fulfilling it’s task under the treaties of, I quote, defining the general political directions and priorities of the union. Some commentators have seen a great deal more in this role, others have seen less. On the one hand, some considered the presidency of the European Council to be a sort of Président in the manner of an executive head of state as in, for instance, France. On the other hand see it as the mere chairmanship of the meeting of the heads of government. In reality it is neither.
It is certainly not a président, endowed with the executive powers in his own right. The incumbent must express the views of the collectivity of the heads of state and of government. On the other hand, the role is not merely one of being a chairman, giving the floor to one or another member of the European Council to speak during its meetings, the task of preparing and then following up its meetings and representing the union externally. For instance, along with the President of the Commission at the G20 summit, and his role as a bridge between the national capitals and the institutions, clearly go beyond the task of merely chairing meetings. The role of Parliament President is to enhance a shared sense of direction, nothing more, nothing less. Where are we going? How to deal with our neighbors? Who are our main strategic partners in the world? Where do we want to be in 10 or 20 years time? These are vital issues.
As regards my relationship with the European Parliament, the treaty is quite brief on this. It simply requires that I report to you after meetings of the European Council. That means a minimum of four times a year, though in most years that is more likely to be five or six, and may in the future rise to 10. It will not be long before many of you will be fed up with the sight of me.
I will continue to multiply other usual contacts with members of Parliament such as meetings I’ve begun with leaders of groups and the monthly meeting I have with the President of the Parliament. My role indeed should not be confused with that of the President of the Commission. Mr. Barroso chairs an executive that is elected by and is accountable to the European Parliament. It submits legislative and budgetary proposals to you. I do not so. The Commission President has an intimate day to day contact with the European Parliament, not least in working on those legislative and budgetary proposals. My task is rather to ensure that the heads of state and of government can collectively agree on overall strategy for European Union, both as regards its internal development and in terms of its external relations.
At the weekly meeting with President Barroso, we are both acutely aware of the need to avoid any conflicts of competence or misunderstandings as to who is responsible for what. Public opinion and third countries may well find it difficult to grasp the difference between the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council. I am very confident that we are on the right track. In this context, it is also important to remember that I am President of the European Council and not of the Council of Ministers. These are now separate institutions. The ordinary council, which is the other branch of the legislature with the European Parliament, would still be chaired by a presidency that continues to rotate every six months among the member states. Only in the configuration of foreign affairs, where it coordinates executive power, does it have it permanent president in the form of Catherine Ashton, Vice President of the Commission and High Representative for foreign policy.
I pause at this point to pay tribute to the work being done by Catherine Ashton. In facing up to multiple challenges in the field of foreign affairs and security, and in preparing the external action service, she deserves our support. It will be my privilege to work closely with her in external representing the union.
Let me just say a few words about the European Council itself. The first formal meeting under my chairmanship will take place at the end of next month. We did, however, have a useful informal gathering of heads of state and of government earlier this month in the Bibliothèque Solvay, just a few hundred meters from here. Whether it was because of the more intimate surroundings of the library or the physical proximity of the parliament, our discussions were fruitful. As I said, I cannot report any formal conclusions to you from an informal meeting. At most, I can share with you my own personal conclusions from the discussions, which I have set out in a letter to the members of the European Council and which I know has been circulated within the parliament.
My aim with this informal counsel was mainly to prepare our future deliberations on the issue of how to improve Europe’s economic performance as we exit the immediate economic crisis. This involves looking at our targets and ambitions, and we had a very useful paper from Commission President Barroso on this. But also, how to improve of governance of these issues. How we go managing our integrated European economy, the world’s largest market, in order to improve our economic performance in one of the central questions facing the European Union. Our initial exchange of view on this involved looking at how we set targets, how we follow them up, how we evaluate results. It is in large part about coordinating the exercise of national competencies, whilst making full use of the European Union competencies and instruments available. It is therefore a task for which the European Council is imminently suited.
In the Solvay meeting, all members of the European Council agree that we need a better but more focused economic coordination in the Union, both for macro economic policy, certainly in the Euro area, and for micro economic policy. A lot of this is very technical, but let’s just take the idea of bringing down the number of common economic objectives to concentrate on just four or five. These objectives should be quantifiable and divisible in national set objectives. It makes no sense to have scoreboards on say, 65 different data. Moreover, all members of the European Council who are willing to take more responsibility in a common European strategy for growth and jobs. Such personal evolvement is indispensable. We need to go from paper recommendation to real life commitment. I was glad to find such a level of ambition around the table. Whether you want to call it better coordination, better governance, or even a governor economic, the key is the common commitment to success.
We also had a quick discussion on how to better implement Europe’s actions in the reconstruction of Haiti. We’ll want to take this discussion further with an eye to better implementing Article 214 of the treaty on the coordination of humanitarian aid. A discussion on how Europe should respond strategically to the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change will be pursued at the next European Council. Unexpectedly, of course, there was a discussion on the situation in Greece. I took it upon myself, to ensure that this was handled in the European Union’s institutional framework, and not outside it. And that the agreement reached met with the approval of all 27 heads of state and of government, as well as the Presidents of the Commission and President of the European Central Bank.
This degree of consensus was a message about Greece acceptance of its responsibility to cut it’s deficit in a credible way and of our solidarity with it if needed. I very much look forward to hearing your views on all these matters, not least on how we can face all the challenges facing our union. Mr. President, dear colleagues, I can assure you that I have one overriding goal for the coming years, to ensure that our union is on track to be strong enough internally to maintain our own social model, and externally to defend our interests and project our values. I think that all European institutions can and must work together for those goals. Thank you.