Address by Vytenis Povilas ANDRIUKAITIS Deputy Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs AT THE MEETING OF THE PRESIDENTS OF THE PARLIAMENTS OF THE ACCEDING COUNTRIES TO THE EUROPEAN UNION The French National Assembly 3 December 2003
Thank you, Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I would like to start with a personal note and will be somewhat emotional. I want to tell you a real story.
I was born in Siberia in Stalinist gulags in 1951. In 1990, I was among those who proclaimed independence of Lithuania. In September 1990, I was one of the four delegates of as yet unrecognized Republic of Lithuania at the Paris Summit. The delegation consisted of two parliamentarians, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his deputy. Due to the pressure exerted by the Soviet delegation led by Mr. Michael Gorbachiov, the Lithuanian delegation had to stay outside the conference hall. Later, after a long discussion, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was let in as a guest. The rest of us were able to follow the summit only on TV screens.
Thirteen years have passed since then. Europe has changed. Today I am here as a Deputy Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas. Europe has matured because of the solid foundations it is built on, the foundations laid down by Monnet and Schumann.
Jean Monnet once said that in building Europe il faut coaliser les homes, pas reunir les etats (it is necessary to connect people, not states). Great words that soon became deeds! Europe units us in diversity without stripping us of our individuality. France is a great example of perseverance and pride in being what it is.
What is the role of national parliaments in this process? By its nature, parliamentary democracy is a tool for uniting people, a tool for building the culture of tolerance and consensus. It is a means of reflecting individual and collective ideas.
The national parliaments have to ensure that the European Union will never be under the domination of one or two or three countries. The Union of 25, 27, 28 or 30 will be based on networks.
Today few doubt, what kind of Europe we want. I see here my friend Mr. Pierre Lequiller. We, members of the Convention, led by Valery Giscard DEstaign, gave a very clear answer. We dont want Europe which is static, regalian, self-satisfied and centralized. We want Europe based on the new 21st century values of the European Union based on networks and nation, cities and citizens, open and willing to learn.
The new Europe will allow todays generations to develop new parliamentarism, with its role in the EU affairs enhanced. National parliaments are the guarantors of democracy, transparency and government accountability. The new role of Europe imposes the natural answer to the question of their future. The national parliaments as laid down in draft Giscard text are fully informed well in advance, they are constructive and they fully involved.
It is, however, evident that the level of quality and legitimacy of EU decisions cannot be ensured without close co-operation between our parliaments. Networking therefore is the answer. Parliamentary diplomacy is the answer. Diplomacy should not be the exclusive domain of our Foreign Offices. We, parliamentarians, also have a significant role to play in bringing Europes people closer to each other and closer to the often seemingly very distant EU institutions.
The new Constitutional Treaty of the European Union gives us broad authority to determine the forms and content of inter-parliamentary co-operation. European weeks are among the main options to consider. In that context, I have a proposal. Very soon, in less than five months from now, on the 1st of May next year Europe and the World will witness a truly momentous day completing a process begun in early 1990s with the collapse of communism in Eastern and Central Europe. Ten new member states will join the Union. The peoples of Eastern and Central Europe do know the price of this reunification. Lithuanian people still vividly remember Russian tanks roaming the streets of Vilnius just over a decade ago.
I would therefore like to propose to mark the 1 May 2004 with a real sense of celebration throughout the European Union. In fact, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall this is the first occasion of such a magnitude.
The European Summit with the heads of state and government of the 25 member states meeting to commemorate this occasion is not exactly enough. I therefore, would like to suggest holding in our parliaments the first genuine European Week. Let us share our views on the new Constitutional Treaty, on Europe that is closer to its citizens, on the reunification of Europe and the prospects it opens up to all of us.
Let us meet in person and with the help of modern technologies: TV bridges, teleconferences. Let us exchange presentations of the countries, exhibitions, hold concerts and sport events. Let us have our national and EU flags raised or fireworks fired simultaneously throughout Europe. Let us be open and invite the three countries awaiting their membership in the Union Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey to join us. Let us be active in building new Europe.
Jean Monnet was once asked if he was optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Europe. He replied Neither. I am determined. We are determined.
Thank you for your attention.