Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, during the debate in Strasbourg on the Spring European Council
The March Summit was supposed to be about relaunching the Lisbon agenda. Sadly, it will go down in history as a 'fudged' summit. An apparent assault on liberal economics by the French President and others was not an edifying sight. He was quoted as calling the liberalisation of Europe's economies as "the new communism of our age". If true, this was an extraordinary remark. Any attempt to undermine our Services Directive is sadly a clear sign that the anti-reform forces in Europe remain active and disruptive.
Mr Barroso said recently: "Some people think the European Commission is there to protect the 15 against the new 10 - it is not". He is absolutely right. The Services Directive is a fundamental building block of a successful, dynamic economy. Those who seek to undermine the progress of the Internal Market in this way do no service to the millions of unemployed in their countries. On the contrary, as the new Member States have demonstrated so clearly in recent years, liberalising economies are the successful job-creating economies. The so-called "European Social Model" has assumed such a significance among some nations in Europe that it seems almost impossible to undertake reform.
I am afraid that this model, whatever merits it may have had in former times, is now the "Achilles heel" of Europe's economy. It has perpetuated high unemployment - 19 million unemployed at the last count - fostered an anti-enterprise culture and every day that it remains unreformed, the competitiveness of China, the USA and India increases to our disadvantage.
As I have told him, I believe that Mr Barroso is sincere in his drive to get the reforms required, but he has been badly let down by the Heads of Government, including the British Prime Minister, whose "short-termism" has made it more difficult for the President of the Commission to make progress.
There were some items in the conclusions we can welcome, in particular, the commitment to sustainable development and the Kyoto Protocol. However, the heavy-handed tactics of some leaders trying to put a brake on economic reform and playing games with an increasingly discredited stability and growth pact serves as a timely reminder to the peoples of Europe that their interests are being sacrificed to the short-term political interests of a few recalcitrant governments.