Speech by Jonathan Evans MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, to the European Parliament in Stasbourg
"Mr President, Taoiseach,
Can I begin by wishing the Irish Presidency success in its work over the coming six months. They have set out a number of important priorities for action in the period ahead. I welcome the commitment to a successful enlargement of the Union. This has been a British Conservative priority for many years and we look forward to the ten new nations taking their rightful place at Europe's top table.
I am also pleased to note that the Presidency intends breathing new life into the Lisbon agenda on economic reform and competitiveness. I want to concentrate today on the issue of the draft Constitution and the situation following the failure of the Brussels Summit in December. However, as we have made clear on a number of occasions, the Union must get to grips with advancing the stalled Lisbon process. Ireland has made great economic strides in recent years, but throughout the Union there remains a reluctance to embrace genuine economic reform. I was pleased to note in the press yesterday that the Commission wishes to take forward the liberalisation of the internal market in services. These issues are worth tackling in the short to medium term but, for the long-term, EU member states need to be far more ambitious in their approach. However, my enthusiasm is tempered by the reality that liberalisation in areas such as medicine, legal and fiscal advice and employment agencies while worthy, are essentially a distraction from the big picture of further liberalisation in telecommunications, energy and financial services. I urge the Taoiseach to use his influence over the Union's agenda in the months ahead to promote real and lasting economic reform. If he sets this agenda, he will have our full and enthusiastic support.
On the question of the draft Constitution which came to grief at Brussels last December, I would simply say this. Our view has always been that the draft Constitution was moving the EU in the wrong direction. The aspirations of the Laeken summit two years ago, when Heads of Government expressed the hope that the Convention would bring the Union closer to its citizens, as I think singularly failed to materialise.
In light of the collapse of the talks, I would like to put a very specific question to the Taoiseach. In recent correspondence with the British Government's representative on the Convention, Mr Peter Hain refers to "The Treaty we agreed at the European Council ...". Can I ask if the Presidency recognises that a Treaty was indeed "agreed" at the Brussels Council? The statements you have made on this issue, and the President of the Commission and others, would imply that nothing is agreed on the draft Constitution until everything is agreed. I would appreciate clarity from the Presidency on the matter."