The President of the European Parliament, Spanish socialist Josep Borrell will soon be ending his term. On the eve of the last European Union summit, he spoke to EuroNews on some of the top EU issues, as well as touching on his own political future.
EuroNews: You have been President of the Parliament for the last two years. Do you think the chamber really represents the electorate?
Josep Borrell: Of course, yes, it represents the people everyday with more intensity and more political influence in the life of the EU. The parliament today has more credibility, more political weight, a greater capacity to intervene on legislative matters than two years ago. Everyone recognises that. People come to the parliament because they know decisions are being made that concern them.
EuroNews: Germany’s conservative Euro MP Hans Gert Poettering will be taking up the parliament’s presidency in accordance with the agreement signed by the socialists and conservatives. How can you justify this pact to voters?
Josep Borrell: We still need to wait for the final results of the vote, but it does look like Poettering has the support of the three main political groups – conservatives, socialists and liberals. I don’t know why this agreement has caused suspicion. No political group in the parliament has enough support alone to elect a president. As a consequence one is forced to reach agreements with others. It’s been this way since the beginning of parliament. Nothing new there.
EuroNews: In January, Germany will take to the head of the rotating EU presidency and we’ll also have a German president of parliament…
Josep Borrell: It would be good to do away with this territorial vision of posts. When my name came up for the presidency, some said “No, because Mr Barroso is Portuguese and there will be too many Iberians” – as if we were talking about salami! Come on, we’re here to represent an idea of Europe that can be shared by people from Estonia, Portugal, Scotland or Cyprus. I know there are sensitivities, but what counts is a more far-reaching European sensitivity, not where someone comes from in Europe.
EuroNews: Europe is suffering an institutional crisis, but Germany wants to relaunch the European Constitution during its presidency. In your opinion what needs to be done to make Europeans accept it?
Josep Borrell: The constitutional treaty is absolutely necessary -give it that name or any other – what’s important is its essence. If we don’t have new institutions, a new decision-making process as well as a clearer definition of our objectives and the means to achieve them, a Europe of 27-members will become paralysed. There are moments in history when the pros of the Union are evident, and that the price paid for disunity is heavy. This is one of them. Faced with energy dependence and immigration tensions, either Europe will unite or face difficulty in the 21st century in keeping growth, prosperity and its political influence on track.
EuroNews: During this week’s European Union summit, immigration is up for debate…
Josep Borrell: As was the case at the last summit in Lahti, and in the ones before that too… for seven years it’s been discussed with little progress, and as long as we have to reach unanimity we will continue not making progress.
EuroNews: We were speaking about energy, one of the big challenges for Europe. What’s the solution?
Josep Borrell: It’s clear that the world can’t allow itself to consume energy like America, or like Europe for that matter – if we want it to be available to all human beings. As a consequence we need to develop alternative energy sources, without relying on carbon fuels, and that means making choices. Energy will put democracy to the test. We will see if citizens are capable of responding to the needs of sustainable development. We will see if we will be able to follow through our decisions. Europe signed up to the Kyoto Protocol to limit its emissions – but no one wants that to reduce their “energy comforts”. How do we get there? Returning to nuclear energy? It’s a debate that’s already begun.
EuroNews: One last question, how do you see your future after the European Parliament?
Josep Borrell: Well, after the European Parliament… more European parliament!