Ahead of his inaugural speech today, newly-elected president of the European Parliament, Polish centre-right MEP Jerzy Buzek (EPP), gave EURACTIV a glimpse of his priorities for the coming years in an interview.
in July, Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek was appointed president of the European Parliament, becoming the first politician from a former communist country to lead an EU institution.
Buzek was outlining his priorities to Daniela Vincenti Mitchener.
What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the new European Parliament under your presidency?
The European Union has gone through radical changes over the last five years, both politically and institutionally. The next five years will no doubt see some consolidation, but also great economic, environmental and institutional challenges.
For the European Parliament, once the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force the powers of the Parliament will be greatly enhanced. I welcome the increased powers, notably in setting the EU budget, agriculture policy, and justice and home affairs. But with these powers comes an even greater responsibility to listen and act in the best interests of Europe’s citizens.
You are the first politician from a ‘new’ member state to lead an EU institution. How do you intend to approach the question of further enlargement?
Iceland, Croatia, Turkey, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are official candidates. Others, such as Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo also have a “prospect” of joining. Debates about whether they are ready to join, and possible dates for joining, will be high on Parliament’s agenda in the coming years.
How, in your opinion, can the EU set about tackling the economic crisis while ensuring that European social values and the Lisbon Agenda’s ‘knowledge economy’ ambitions are maintained?
The consequences of the economic crisis, the impact of demographic change and the best way to safeguard the European social model are among issues in store for the new European Parliament over the next few years.
Ensuring that Europe is competitive in the world, by both the private and public sectors investing greater amounts of GDP into innovation and research and development is essential.
What about climate change? Will the Buzek Parliament have a strong ‘green agenda’?
I am sure that improving Europe’s energy security, interconnections and diversifying supply will become an even greater priority. On climate change, the change to a low carbon-economy must be regarded as an opportunity for investment in new renewable industries and not as a threat to economic growth.
The December 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will be of course be crucial to this, and the European Parliament has already played a vital role in ensuring it is the European Union that leads the world on reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. A global deal is needed, but this should not be at the expense of developing countries.
The European Parliament currently has a higher proportion of women MEPs than ever before, but at 35% this figure is still considerably lower than in some EU member states. Will your presidency focus on increasing that figure and highlighting equality issues?
The beginning of this millennium, I believe, will be marked by a greater involvement of women in all aspects of society. I welcome this, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to ensure equality. The European Parliament will continue to play a major role in defining legislation on equal opportunities, non-discrimination and the respect of human rights.
Are there any other policy areas that you wish to highlight as new Parliament priorities under your presidency?
New measures to prevent acts of terrorism will be examined by the European Parliament in the coming years. The balance between security and protection on the one hand and privacy and fundamental rights on the other will also be key issues.
Unexpected events will shape both the European Parliament and European Union’s path over the next few years. But as the famous Danish physicist Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
My term as European Parliament president will last until December 2011, and during that time I intend to act on the best interests of the Union’s citizens. As president of the European Parliament it is my duty to do so.