Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament - Strasbourg, 13 December 2006 during the debate on
Preparations for the European Council(14/15 December 2006)
Mr President, the Council meets this week to discuss a number of important issues that are going to resonate into the next Presidency.
Firstly, the Finnish Presidency will report on its informal consultations with Member States on the future of the European Constitution. I hope that discussion on this matter will be open and transparent, as the Council should be. We know that there are very serious reservations about proceeding with the Constitution in a number of countries. The British Government has given mixed signals and appears deeply divided, the outgoing Dutch Government does not want another referendum, whilst the German Government wishes to retain as much of the current Constitution as possible. I therefore sympathise with the Presidency in the work it will have to take on in regard to this matter.
However, one thing is very clear: there really is little enthusiasm for it. ALDE Group Members may care to note the words of the British Liberal Democrat leader, who yesterday described it as a 'tortured document'. I wonder whether Mr Duff would agree with that.
I make a plea that we should now move on and start focusing on a real reform agenda, one that genuinely makes the European Union more outward-looking, flexible and competitive. I believe that is also the way to restore confidence in Europe - and certainly not relying on PSE booklets, which will soon enough be forgotten.
The Council will also discuss ideas on the future of justice and home affairs. It is clear that we have not sufficiently explored ways of improving intergovernmental cooperation. We should now get on with this and seek innovative ways of making that route work better.
I hope that we will also take on board the remarks of Mr Barroso, who said yesterday that he would like to see a speeding-up of structural economic reforms in Europe. He is right. That is the kind of practical initiative that will improve Europe's standing in the eyes of the people, and I for one certainly applaud it.