Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, during a debate on the Commission's Legislative and Work Programme in Strasbourg
"This Commission programme offers real hope on the revitalisation and refocusing of the Lisbon Agenda. But, as we approach the Spring Council next month, it is vital that national governments get a grip and push ahead with the economic reforms that are vital to the future prosperity envisaged in the programme.
I have been impressed with the statements of the President of the Commission in recent weeks and his clear aim of putting growth and prosperity at the heart of his strategy for the period ahead. I am, however, equally unimpressed by the rantings of the Socialists on what they see as the need for refocusing the priorities within the Lisbon process. The left in Europe remain wedded to the old ways of inflexible labour markets, high non-wage labour costs and other barriers to growth. Can they not see that it is precisely because of the old social model that Europe is today in relative economic decline? Can they not understand that the high unemployment in so many parts of Europe is caused by the very outmoded economic practices they cling to?
So, we continue to urge the Commission President to keep up the pace on reform. And, we urge national governments to take heed of the reasons for the failure of Lisbon in its first five years. We also want to see a renewed commitment to the completion of the Single Market.
Mr Barroso sensibly understands that many of the remedies to the lack of economic dynamism lie in the hands of Member States themselves. However, in addition to the lead he has taken, I would encourage the President to put real effort into reducing the legislative output from the Commission itself.
He talks, rightly, about 'better regulation', but the top priority must be less regulation. And, crucially, all legislation must be subject to a full impact assessment before progresses. British Conservative MEPs have been at the forefront of campaigning for less regulation and enforcing such impact assessments, and I look forward to seeing some progress soon on these issues.
I also want to comment briefly on a couple of other items in the Work Programme. First, on fraud. There needs to be a clear political will to tackle the root causes of fraud and mismanagement. The last Commission made some progress, but it was inadequate and failed to dispel public concern. We have called for a Commissioner with sole responsibility for budgetary control who would oversee the entire system to ensure proper accounting, effective tackling of fraud and improving transparency. We also want to see OLAF become a fully independent body. I hope that the President will look carefully at these matters in this early stage in his strategic thinking. They are central to the concerns of the people we represent in this Parliament."