Speech by Timothy Kirkhope MEP to the European Parliament in Strasbourg
From May 1st we can celebrate one of the greatest achievements of the post-war era. Few imagined twenty years ago that the borders of the European Union could now extend to the Baltic States and Poland. Then, we faced a hostile Soviet Union which held Central and Eastern Europe in its iron grip. The Cold War was evident, the nuclear stand-off only too real, and many European peoples were under the yoke of one-party socialist dictatorships.
This is a time for thanksgiving that we are able to sit alongside the democratically elected representatives of those previously suppressed peoples. Liberal democracy has triumphed. We also rejoice that these nations are members of the NATO Alliance, the most successful defence organisation the world has ever seen. Warfare between the nations of Europe is unthinkable. We have secured a great prize and we must build on it.
This week my Party marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, whose Government I was privileged to join. We should recall today the major contribution she has made to the cause of freedom on this continent. She did perhaps more than any other western political statesman of our age, confronting the Communists and bringing about the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
As one who served on the Convention, I know that there will be many debates on the future of this continent in the coming years, including through future treaties. My Party has a clear vision of a Europe of Nation States. The new Member States now join these debates. The peoples of Europe want peace, freedom and security. We must secure these goals and we do so in a spirit of openness and mutual respect.
But Europe should meet the aspirations of its peoples in partnership with the United States and with enlargement, I believe that the Atlanticist cause will be strengthened.
In the economic sphere, the new Member States bring vitality and experience of the need for economic reform. We all must become more competitive and abandon the economic ways of the past.
Whatever our views on the kind of Europe we want to see, this week we can celebrate the re-uniting of the nations of Europe. It is a cause that my Party has long championed, and we say unreservedly to those who join us here today, "You are most welcome".