Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, during the Debate on the Future of Europe, Strasbourg, 23 May 2007
Mr President, I should like to welcome Prime Minister Balkenende and congratulate him on his election success earlier this year.
As he said, the June Summit will be an important one, and we know that the German Presidency is keen to reach an outline agreement then. Agreement will not be easy. The stated positions of the Member States continue to vary substantially and, in these circumstances, I believe it would be counterproductive to try to force through the wrong sort of agreement in Brussels.
You said recently at your bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister that any new amending treaty should not have the characteristics of a constitution. I wholeheartedly agree with this view and I believe that this is the view of many millions of people across our continent. You also said that you were keen to see the role of national parliaments strengthened. I strongly agree with this view too and I hope you will pursue this at the Summit. I believe that our citizens need to have assurances that their national parliaments will play a greater role in scrutinising draft European legislation. There remains a tangible 'disconnect' between the European institutions and the people.
I have often said that I am not hostile to the idea of some solution that would improve the workings of the institutions in dealing with enlargement and which addresses the alienation people feel about the European institutions themselves. However, I do not believe this solution is a constitution. We should not be seeking greater powers for the centre. Instead, we should be concentrating on policy delivery.
As you have said, and my party leader David Cameron has also said, there is an urgent need for a greater emphasis on making Europe more competitive, tackling global poverty and dealing with the serious issues of climate change. These issues are what people want us to tackle and Member States can do much more to cooperate in these fields.
I therefore urge the Prime Minister and his fellow heads of government not to get bogged down in institutional and constitutional debates in Brussels next month. Instead, let us begin responding to what people are asking us to do: reforming our economies, tackling global warming and alleviating the crushing poverty that we see in the developing world.