Speech by President Dalia Grybauskaitė to the European Parliament
Mr. President of the European Parliament, members of the European Parliament,
Let me begin with a few words in Lithuanian.
It is an honour for me to review with you the results of the Lithuanian Presidency.
I do so with pride that our small country, our young democracy, its statehood so recently regained, has shown that it too can carry out the tasks of an EU Presidency as well as any other member state - large or small.
Lithuania has risen to the challenge. We did everything expected of us and more. After six months, the Lithuanian legacy is a stronger, more credible, more confident European Union.
When I addressed you in July, I said the Lithuanian Presidency would be about a Credible, a Growing, and an Open Europe.
I stressed the need to regain credibility with the citizens of Europe by delivering on the outcomes they have been promised, by following through on what we have committed to do, and by showing we can work effectively together in the interests of our citizens.
I spoke of the need to restore growth to our economy, to make it competitive, with sustainable jobs for young people in particular.
And I reminded this House that Europe has always been at its best when it has been an open Europe.
A Europe which has stood up for peace, democracy and human rights. A Europe which, after 50 years of conflict and division, has striven to reunite the continent.
So what have we achieved?
1. Despite the exceptional efforts of the Irish Presidency, reaching the final agreement on the MFF and the 2014 budget was not easy. The deal we struck in November involved hard choices on all sides. No one got fully everything they wanted.
I pay tribute to all those in this House who played a part in forging that agreement - not least to Monsieur Lamassoure and to Madame Jensen. Because I think that, together, we showed what can be done when we put our collective ingenuity to the task of making Europe work for its citizens.
We delivered - on time - a modern, predictable, forward-looking, long-term budget. A budget that makes a difference to people's lives, to every household across Europe. A budget that shows Europe is part of the solution.
Yes, it's a rigorous budget, in keeping with those that national governments are having to implement at home. But even if modest in size, at 1% of the EU's GDP, it represents an injection of nearly a trillion euros into the real economy.
It addresses the urgent investment needs of hundreds of thousands of towns and regions across Europe.
It recognises the social cost of the economic crisis, bringing the badly-needed extra help to those living below the poverty line or desperately seeking a job.
It is a budget for smart growth, targeted on strengthening and sustaining the economic recovery already underway.
It provides us with the means to prevent our young people being denied a future. It gives Europe the capacity to fight cybercrime.
It addresses the tragedy we have seen too often at Lampedusa, strengthening our border and asylum management.
At home, it brings relief to the victims of catastrophic floods and drought. And beyond our borders, it provides the largest programme of development and humanitarian assistance the world has ever seen.
Members of Parliament,
In putting our house in order, we delivered a budget fit for purpose and right for our time. But delivery requires more than a budget.
As you well know, the Lithuanian Presidency also faced the task of completing negotiations with you on separate programmes required to implement the MFF.
I'm pleased that we managed to reach agreement on nearly all of them. Only very few remain for the Greek Presidency to complete.
Delivery on that scale is demanding on any individual. So I would like to put on record my thanks and admiration for the tireless effort that your Committee chairs, rapporteurs and members have put in, and for the skill and expertise they bring to the task. Europe's voters need to hear the message that they are well served by their legislators.
Everyone wins from the programmes in place since the start of this year - Horizon 2020, Creative Europe, COSME, Erasmus+, to name but a few.
They provide evidence for the claim that Europe is building its way out of the crisis, that Europe is delivering for its citizens, that Europe is working.
2. Credibility is not just about delivering sustainable growth; it's also about restoring confidence in the EU's financial system, and regaining the trust of financial markets. Which is why we pulled out all the stops to make progress on creating a functional Banking Union.
The agreement reached just before Christmas on the Single Resolution Mechanism provides a blueprint for repairing insolvent banks. This is vital for securing economic recovery and financial stability.
The Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive will stop taxpayers having to bail out banks again; while the Deposit Guarantee Scheme means that depositors will be guaranteed up to €100,000, not by taxpayers, but by the banks themselves, and that they will get their money back within 7 working days. This is the way to restore the trust of global markets and to help grow the Union's economy.
The Commission's Annual Growth Survey shows that growth is gradually returning; financial markets are stabilizing; consumers and businesses are more confident about the future; Ireland has exited the bailout program.
3. During our Presidency, a total of 141 legislative and 283 non-legislative dossiers were concluded. That's more than twice what on average most Presidencies achieve in their 6-month terms.
Nevertheless, there will be those here who remain disappointed that their particular priorities didn't progress as far as they had hoped under the Lithuanian Presidency.
However, let me single out some other dossiers where we did make a breakthrough though there was little hope at the beginning of the Presidency.
- First, the inter-institutional Task Force made significant progress towards agreeing on single stock plans under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. This has always been a contentious area, and multi-annual plans for the sustainable management of European fish stocks and our fishing industry would represent a historic step forward.
- Second, we all wanted to see progress on a proposal on the Statute and Funding for European Political Parties and Foundations. So I'm glad that our negotiators appear to have made a breakthrough on this politically-sensitive and legally-challenging dossier.
- It will serve as a strong basis for our trio partner Greece seeking final agreement before the end of the term of this Parliament.
- Lastly, the Lithuanian Presidency has reached a landmark agreement on the Posting of Workers Directive - key for better provision of cross-border services and protection of workers' rights.
4. We also moved forward with the digital agenda and further deepened the Single Market - creating opportunities for SMEs, true engines of our economies.
- In the field of energy, the December Council has endorsed two reports - on internal energy market and on EU external energy.
It sets the guidelines for the completion of the internal energy market, aimed for the end of 2014. Important that for the first time we have a separate instrument in the MFF for strategic energy links.
5. Trade is vital to growth, to creating jobs, to sustaining families and communities. Here, too, there were breakthroughs:
- with Canada, on an ambitious CETA agreement;
- with the United States, with whom we finally got down to serious negotiations on TTIP. Agreement here would be game-changing, benefiting every family in the EU;
- with the WTO in Bali, where we rediscovered our hope that multilateral trade deals can become a vehicle for global growth;
- and with Georgia and Moldova which both, despite relentless and unacceptable pressure from Moscow, signalled their determination to integrate their economies with the EU.
The outcome of the Vilnius Summit triggered a historic change, giving fresh impulse to the Eastern Partnership. Ukraine will never be the same again.
Together with Commissioners Füle and Ashton, with your envoys Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and with a massive show of support from members from every corner of this House, we put heart and soul into demonstrating to our Eastern neighbours that our offer of partnership was genuine.
To show that Europe is their centre of gravity.
By not signing the Association Agreement, Ukraine's political leadership defied the expectations of its own people unwilling to let go their European dream.
Who in the world could fail to have been moved by the image of ordinary people of all ages in Kyiv's freezing Euromaidan peacefully confronting rows of riot police; and, between them, a solitary pianist playing on an upright piano painted in the blue and yellow stars of the EU flag?
Taking their future into their own hands, unwilling to be subdued by the Berkut, these demonstrators refused to give up their quest for a fairer life, the right of all people in sovereign states to choose a better future for themselves.
The spirit of the Maidanci, who have taken to the streets to defend their European choice, represents a test for us all. A test we cannot afford to fail.
While commentators in Europe, in this Parliament even, complain that the EU has lost its way, we are seeing precisely the opposite sentiment coming from the Euromaidan.
The Vilnius Summit has served as a wake-up call. The EU is still a model, a center of attraction for many in the world, beginning with our closest neighbours.
Aspirations towards the EU in our Eastern neighbourhood, as in the Western Balkans, aren't just a show of democracy; they are a rallying call for the democratic values that this Parliament represents.
Once again, the EU is a lighthouse of hope - for freedom, democracy and human rights.
2013 has been designated the European Year of Citizens.
We all know very well that the interests of citizens can be best served and their trust gained when we deliver results. And I think the Lithuanian Presidency has delivered.
From the outset, the European Parliament has been our partner. Also, I want to thank members of the European Commission for making that partnership a success.
I believe that the experience of the last six months has given Lithuania new strength, new confidence.
Faced with intolerable external pressures in the run-up to the Vilnius Summit, we came to appreciate the value of EU solidarity.
In extending every best wish to the incoming Greek Presidency, I can say we discovered that success in a Council Presidency has nothing to do with the size of the country you represent. It has everything to do with hard work, efficiency, and determination to build a consensus. We came prepared, we learned along the way, we have given it everything.
Thank you for your cooperation along the way.
Search by policy areas