Prodi defends his record

In a speech before Parliament on 13 October, Romano Prodi gave
his own assessment of his five year mandate at the head of the
Commission.


Enlargement 

Prodi said enlargement was what gave the Commission’s work its
“thrust and direction” during his mandate. He reminded MEPs about
the “misgivings” regarding enlargement and the “number of countries
to bring in” when he took office in 1999. Many, he said, “wanted to
limit enlargement to no more than six” and there was “no clear
timetable or definite rules” laid down. Europe’s unification, he
went on, “is the greatest contribution the Union could make to
stabilising and developing the whole continent”. 


Institutional reforms
 

The Convention approach to reforming the EU institutions in view
of enlargement was met with “deep scepticism”, Prodi recalled.
Many, he said, wanted the reforms to “be confined to the leftovers
from [the] Amsterdam” Treaty of 1997. “Our task is now at an end.
In a few days, the Consitutional Treaty will be signed in Rome,”
Prodi said. But he admitted that the draft Treaty “falls short [in]
the areas where unanimity remains the rule”. 

Internal reform was another point where Romano Prodi said the
Commission could have “every reason to feel proud of itself again”.
The institution, he said, is now “back in shape and doing well”,
its “strength and prestige” were restored after the “crisis” of the
Santer Commission in 1998 and 1999. 


Europe in the world
 

After unification, Prodi cited Europe’s “new vision of the
Union’s border” through the European neighbourhood policy. Special
relationships, he said, have been built with Europe’s neighbours,
especially through the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The
stabilisation of the Balkans and the efforts made to “stepping up
world and regional governance” with stronger co-operation with the
United Nations were put forward as progress made towards
multilateralism. 


The Euro and the social and economic
agenda

 

In the economic field, Prodi said the Euro has “clearly been the
major event of our term in office”. He insisted that the Euro was
“a great political project from the outset – not just an economic
one. A project for political leaders, not just for central
bankers”. However, he pointed out that the “lack of a stronger EU
dimension in this area is still costing Europe too much”. This was
the reason why he decided to launch the debate about the reform of
the Stability and Growth pact, a debate that “many felt was
necessary but did not have the courage to say so”. 

Regarding the Lisbon economic reforms, he highlighted the
European Research Area, the focus on innovation and the information
society, education and the reform of competition policy as
successes. But he added that “many objectives have not been met in
this area”. “The difficulties we came up against with the Community
Patent, which was repeatedly blocked on linguistic grounds, speak
volumes” about those failures, Prodi pointed out. “If the Member
States do not behave differently, the Lisbon strategy is at risk,”
he warned. 


Quality of life

Prodi briefly mentioned progress made in a variety of areas:
establishment of the area of freedom, security and justice;
Gothenburg Sustainable Development Strategy; EU action in support
of the Kyoto Protocol; Galileo European satellite navigation
system. He recalled the “mad cow” crisis to which the Commission
responded with the “integrated ‘farm-to-fork’ strategy”. 


Financial perspectives

Prodi finished his speech by mentioning the preparations, made
under his Presidency, for the upcoming budgeting period (the
financial perspectives 2007-2013). He described the proposal as his
Commission’s “vision for the post-enlargement Union”.

Speaking before MEPs on Wednesday 13 October, Romano Prodi
highlighted enlargement and the Constitutional Treaty as major
achievements of his five-year mandate at the head of the
Commission. He also highlighted the EU's external policy
(trade, neighbourhood policy), the introduction of the Euro and the
launch of the Lisbon economic and social reforms as major
aspects of his record as Commission President. However, he
admitted the setbacks of the Lisbon strategy and warned that it
would "be at risk" should member states not behave
differently. 

  • After approval from the Parliament, the Barroso Commission will
    take office on 1 November for the next five years

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