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Evans: Prodi stocktake falls short

Mr President,

One of your key aims was the successful enlargement of the European Union. In May this year the EU welcomed ten new Member States in the largest expansion since its creation. This was an historic moment in the post-Cold War history of our continent, and it is only right to acknowledge the role you played in effecting this political milestone. I also want to say that the Commission has developed some, at least, of the more liberal economic strategies that your successor is now pledging to advance. The Lisbon Strategy was embarked upon on your watch but, sadly, too little progress has been made and I suspect that Mr Kok's report to the Council in November will reveal this.

However, the positive remarks about the Commission end there. For the past five years, the Commission has become fatally addicted to constitutional change. When you spoke to Parliament in 2000, setting out your priorities as President, you said: "Europe's citizens are disenchanted and anxious. They have lost faith in the European institutions". I am afraid that the intervening period has been one that has brought us the Constitutional Convention, the IGC and eventually the EU Constitution. It is clear from the turnout in this year's European elections that this process has failed to inspire. Indeed, it has reinforced the perception across Europe that institutions like the Commission are too self-serving.

In that 2000 speech, you also said that a simple benchmark of whether the EU had delivered was a higher turnout in the 2004 European parliamentary elections. One of the key reasons for your goal not being reached has been this obsession with constitutional change, that means very little to our constituents. On the reform of the Commission, I think there has been too little progress.

I regret to say that all this was inevitable, because over the past 12 months the Commission has been rudderless. I make no apology for saying that this is in large measure due to your decision to spend a significant amount of your time attacking the Italian Prime Minister, and constructing alliances to challenge him. This activity has undermined the impartiality of the office of the President of the Commission and has ensured that the Commission has come to be seen as something of a lame duck.

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