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Kirkhope: The Future of Europe

Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, during the Debate on the Future of Europe - European Parliament, Brussels - 29 November 2006

Mr President, firstly I would like to welcome the Taoiseach to Parliament. I would like to start on a note of harmony in saying that I have read with great interest his recent statements on the passerelle clause in matters relating to justice and home affairs and I entirely agree with him that we should not proceed down that road. Criminal justice policy, the fight against terrorism and action to defeat trafficking and illegal immigration, are matters that rightly belong to the nation state, yet we have not even explored all the options to improve intergovernmental cooperation in these and other justice fields, and I believe that we should.

As for the Constitution, the debate now seems to be entering the realms of fantasy. The French and Dutch people delivered the fatal blow, and yet we hear this week that the Finnish Presidency has been quietly 'stock-taking' with Member States to see whether it can somehow be resuscitated.

Mr Sarkozy calls for a 'mini-Constitution'. The Commission rejects it. The German Government says it wants the Constitution kept intact and then resurrected. The outgoing Dutch Government made clear it would not have a second referendum. The British Government, true to form, appears to be split: the Foreign Secretary says it was a grandiose scheme which had failed; the junior Europe Minister says we need to address the substance of the Constitution. Well, has the penny dropped yet? Europe needs to move on. It needs to move on to stop alienating the electorate in a dangerous way.

I have called consistently for reforms. We must have economic reforms. We must address the failure to achieve the Kyoto emission targets. We must have those fundamental reforms, enabling us to compete with the emerging giants in Asia. We need to have agricultural policies that do not undermine the fight against global poverty and we need effective leadership. As my party leader has said, it is because we want to see a future for the EU and believe in a strong Europe that we call for a change of direction. Our continent is crying out for leadership and we debate a piece of paper. I have to say that history is sadly littered with unwanted and inappropriate pieces of paper.

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