European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering's address to the Bulgarian Parliament
Distinguished Mr President,
Distinguished Mr Pirinski,
Distinguished Leaders of Political Groups,
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mr President, Dear Colleagues,
Now, to make things pleasant for you, and easier for me, I shall continue my speech in my native tongue.
I am honoured, and happy to address the National Assembly of a new member-state of the European Union for the first time in my capacity of President of the European Parliament, and to stand before a national parliament of one of our European family countries just shortly after I have been elected President of the European Parliament. Over the past weeks I have attended sessions in several national parliaments, and have spoken to representatives of their parliamentary committees; yet the Bulgarian Parliament is the first that I have the chance of addressing and I shall remember this all my life. To quote the Speaker, this is one of the miracles of our time, the very fact that I am in a position to do this.
When, back in 1979, I was elected the youngest member of our faction, I could not never imagine that on 20 April 2007 I shall speak here, in free and democratic Bulgaria. Yes, this is a miracle of our time. Let us rejoice and be grateful for that.
I wish to express my thanks for this opportunity, since from the European perspective this happens on a very important day, the day of launching the first ever Bulgarian election campaign for European Parliament, to take place on 20 May 2007.
On behalf of the citizens of the European Union whom the European Parliament represents, today I wish to express once again my joy in your accession to the EU. Sixty years were needed to see Bulgaria once more a part of free Europe, and to see our continent united.
Bulgaria is a land of ancient culture, on the crossroads between the East, and the West, the country of Orpheus and Eurydice, of the Thracians and Dionysus. It is here that, according to the lore, Khan Asparoukh founded one of the oldest European states in 681. Your state, dear Colleagues, joins the EU bringing into it a rich historical and spiritual heritage. Take the Rila monastery as an example, with its remarkable frescos, underpinning the richness of your culture, and think that it is not the only evidence of your heritage. Bulgaria will deepen the political, economic and cultural integration of the European Union and will contribute to the mutual enrichment.
To your country, dear Colleagues, and above all to the Bulgarian people, we owe a particular gratitude for the courage and the reforms in the recent years. The efforts were worthwhile. The EU membership gives Bulgaria a chance to follow its positive course of development. It is also gives the EU a chance, the chance of being able of meeting the challenges of the future together. Together, we must seize this chance. The citizens of Bulgaria will have to use every opportunity of building their future through their representatives.
In a month's time, Bulgaria will hold its first ever elections for the European Parliament. For me, as President of the Parliament, it was very important to visit your country prior to these significant elections. These elections will give the citizens of your country the chance, through their active vote, of making the voice of Bulgaria heard in the European Parliament. In the debate on Europe I am insisting on the specific advantages and prerogatives of the people - such as the issue of the mobile phones roaming - as well as on the role of Bulgaria in our European Parliament. I think you should be doing the same, pay sufficient attention to all such issues - we need this European debate.
We at the European Parliament are proud and happy that very soon we shall be welcoming 18 new members elected in Bulgaria through a direct vote. We have been doing an excellent job with the Bulgarian observers since September 2005. Since 1 January 2007 these observers have become full members of the European Parliament. We are learning a lot from each other. In Europe we attach great importance to this. We are learning to listen to each other and to learn from each other. Together with the Bulgarian colleagues who are going to be elected in May, we shall continue to work together, for our European Home.
I call upon all Bulgarian citizens to exercise their right to vote. Today, you live in a democratic society something you have not enjoyed for a very long period. You live in a free and democratic Bulgaria, which already participates in the common values of the European nations. Your vote on 20 May will enhance the importance of your country Bulgaria, of your Motherland, and will honour your country's role in the European Union. Your future is our common future, our common future is the future of Europe!
The European Parliament has invariably supported Bulgaria's membership. While in another political role, I, too, have supported the membership of Bulgaria. We supported Bulgaria on her way to accession, and have worked for Bulgaria's accession to materialise on 1 January 2007. Now you, Bulgarians, need to shoulder your responsibility, the responsibility of the EU membership. Responsibility and solidarity, this is the core of the European Union.
All of us, the 27 peoples, states and nations of the European Union, alongside the EU institutions, have expressed clearly and unhesitatingly, our solidarity with the five Bulgarian nurses, sentenced to death in Libya. The nurses are of Bulgarian nationality yet they are also citizens of the European Union. We conveyed our concern. The European Parliament firmly condemned, in its Resolution of 18 January, the death sentences of the nurses, and insisted for them to be revoked. Only two days ago I was in a position to meet the relatives, sons and daughters of the nurses in Brussels. I carry their sadness in my heart. And I have pinned this on my lapel in order to express my solidarity with your nurses in Libya.
Today, in front of you, in your free and democratic Bulgaria, I reiterate my appeal to Libya to repeal the death sentences and free the detained nurses so that they return to their families in Bulgaria.
The first ever European elections in Bulgaria will be a landmark of the democratic course of your country. At those elections the citizens of Bulgaria who have longed to be part of Europe for so long, will really become full members of the European Union, and its full fledged voters.
Over the last years, Bulgarians did a tremendous job. The people of Bulgaria shouldered a huge burden in their effort of meet the accession criteria. The progress achieved by your country is huge. Bulgaria's successive governments and the Parliament of Bulgaria undertook many reforms, major reforms which took place over a comparatively short period. I now wish to encourage the Bulgarians not to stop the process of reforms, in order to strengthen democracy of their country of justice, social order and market economy, so that Bulgaria could continue to play its role of a stability factor in the Balkan peninsula and to set example to other states aspiring to EU membership. Bulgaria can be a source of hope for the neighbouring states of the Balkan Union, states which also dream about EU membership.
You, Distinguished Colleagues, are now involved in the legal reform. The European Parliament welcomes the numerous steps undertaken by you, especially for the amendments to the Constitution, and for the adoption of new administrative and penal legal regulations so that you could fulfil the commitments that you have undertaken. We respect the fact that you give priority to a greatest possible transparency of the processes resulting from this reform.
In recent months, you have achieved a lot in improving border control, which is of such great importance for our citizens. In this direction we will need to continue our joint efforts so that we could fight organised crime ever so effectively. The report on Bulgaria's progress of the end of March has shown that the trends are positive, and the reforms ongoing.
In June 2007 the European Commission will present to the European Parliament and the European Council a report on the progress, and we hope that it will say that we have achieved all our goals You have already achieved so much! Your commitment is remarkable! At this moment, your task is not to relax, but to go ahead, to enable Bulgaria to go on with its forthcoming reforms in the same decisive manner. It is the interest of your country and your parliament, it is in the personal interest of each and any of you, but it is also in the interest of the entire European Union.
Dear Colleagues, let us all cast a look at the future. The slogan of Bulgaria comes to mind: "In unity lies strength". This slogan comes from the old legend about Khan Asparoukh who demonstrated to his sons that it was much more difficult to break a sheath of twigs than a single bough. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that he wanted to demonstrate to his sons what unity can do, he was intent to show them that in unity lied strength. This legend is also pertinent to the European values because all of us, jointly and in solidarity, desire to work for the improvement of the future of our citizens. Our future in the European Union is a common future. Our future lies in our unity, because we can only be successful if united, since the challenges we meet are too big for any state to fight them on its own.
My most important task will be to create a common European energy policy which will help us to solve the problem of global warming, since temperatures are increasing incredibly quickly. Studies have shown that. For the first 100 years, an increase by 5 degrees is expected so that we are forced to act. It is important for the European Union to take the correct decision on this particular problem. On 8 and 9 March 2007 the European Union took the correct decision in Brussels by adopting an ambitious plan of action, the first of its kind. Being the European Union, we wish to lead in the global fight again the global warming.
Dear Colleagues, I would like to ask you whether there could exist a better global leadership, and a more worthy initiative of the leadership and initiative for the preservation of the environment? Bulgaria's economy is a major consumer of energy. Your state is absolutely right in its concern of whether there will be sufficient and timely energy supply. Here again, solidarity in action is important. In the field of energy, we should act in solidarity, jointly, and support the states which a more or less totally dependent on one energy supplier and have to simultaneously take into consideration the risks of energy production. To be able to guarantee a reliable supply of energy, we need to rely on renewable sources.
Another major challenge is the safeguarding of peace in the Balkans, in Europe, and in the world. I am confident that Bulgaria is capable of making a decisive contribution in this field, especially towards security in Southern and Eastern Europe. Bulgaria has already contributed to the security and peace in the Balkans. Now, as a member state of NATO, Bulgaria is certain to undertake new and even more serious responsibilities. Bulgaria sets a good example and gives hope to other countries in the region. I would like to encourage you to support your neighbours in the Balkans in their efforts to join the European Union. Thus Bulgaria will shoulder a major responsibility for the entire European Union, and for the entire European continent. Bulgaria will continue to contribute, in a major way, to the constructive dialogue which aims at eliminating regional, cultural and religious misconceptions and will thus enhance understanding a peace throughout the region. This is also important considering its policy with regard to the neighbours of the European Union. Bulgaria and Romania possess experience, and will be able to enhance security and peace in the Black Sea region as they have done so far. I would like to particularly thank you for this.
Distinguished Colleagues, in a ever more complex and global world, the challenges of today, and the challenges of tomorrow do not recognise national borders. These challenges are far too big, to be met by a single state. The European Union is our answer to those challenges. However, the European Union will only be in a position to work effectively, if it has the necessary instruments. Our 27 states and nearly 500 million citizens need unified instruments for action. You are aware that the population of the European Union is much bigger than those of the US and Russia taken together and that, in order to keep our ability to act, we need efficient and working instruments.
It is in the interest of all member states to work to create a sustainable and universally acceptable European Constitution. Bulgaria has already ratified the Constitution thereby making its clear pro-European statement and proving that you value freedom very highly. For you, the European Union is the guarantor of the newly acquired freedom and democracy. The individual is in the centre of our European identity, therefore the subsidiary principle also takes a central part in our value system. I would like to assure you that we have a Europe which stands close to its citizens and not a centralised Europe. I have a dream about Europe based on subsidiarity and the individual, a Europe which does not forget the rights and values of the individual citizen and always takes them at heart.
Europe should not forget its roots. Europe starts where our homeland is, where our homes are, where our Motherland is. Motherland Europe, our homes, this is our common identity. This is our Europe.
We are united by our common values, the values of freedom, democracy, human rights, social market economy. The freedom of the individual and the responsibility for the whole are the core, they lie in the heart of our political existence. They are our European soul.
Therefore, I wish to conclude by accepting as my own, the slogan of Khan Asparoukh, "In unity lies strength". This slogan reflects the very essence of Europe, because Europe means working and living in solidarity so that all could benefit from peace, tolerance and security.
The successful peaceful future of our continent is rooted in our joint efforts. Through them, we shall overcome the challenges of the future.
I wish Bulgaria and all of us success for our common European future!