Jacques Santer returns to Parliament with hopes 2010 will see a look back to move EU forward - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Jacques Santer returns to Parliament with hopes 2010 will see a look back to move EU forward

Thursday, 7 January 2010
Jacques Santer, a former Commission president whose administration was the first to resign en masse after allegations of corruption and a Parliamentary motion of censure (later withdrawn), was back in Parliament last week to issue a rallying call for Europe to make 2010 the year it rediscovers its driving ambition last visible back when he was walking these corridors.

Jacques Santer (centre) by ajburgess on FlickrSpeaking at an event this afternoon to relaunch the Groupe Europe, an autonomous cross-party political movement of which he is the President that comprises 20 constituent organisations dedicated to the promotion of a democratic and federal Europe, Mr Santer called for the EU to reflect on its past and reunite to push the EU forward.

"Who would have thought 25-years ago that we would have this amount of Eastern-European countries incorporated in the EU? No-one [..] Who would have thought that a Pole would become the president of the European parliament? No-one," he said.

"We have a lot to celebrate and commemorate, such as the creation of the single currency, the Euro. Who would have thought it would be so strong, even in the current financial crisis? [...] It is the second international currency at the moment but we never would have believed that at the start."

2010 will mark the 60th year since the Schuman Declaration, an event widely seen as the first official step in the foundation of the present EU. With this in mind, Mr Santer said that now is the time to ask why the idea of Europe has lost its drive and its initial momentum.

"The political confidence of our countries on the reasons why we initiated this common project, the characteristics that we can give to its improvements, its common vision, we must re-establish all of these in order to relaunch Europe into the spotlight," he said.

Mr Santer then spoke more bluntly and exclaimed how European institutions do not interest the citizens. The general public, he said, "is simply not interested in the daily workings of the European Parliament or even with their national Parliaments - it is the policies that interests them."

Referring to the public response bought by controversial decisions, he continued "our institutions must mobilise and act together to create such controversies so that Europe can throw its weight and become a real actor on the international stage."

European Parliament by ajburgess on Flickr"The people," he continued, "do not want to be European, especially the youngsters. They do not in 2010 have the same motivation for European construction as we did back in 1950s."

Santer's solution: this is where the civil servants came in. "European civil servants, as well as the unions and the interest groups," he said, "must come together to help regain the EU's public confidence."

"We have to fight, not just for our daily working lives, but for this common vision of Europe that we once had."

Lamenting the disappearance of this ambition he questioned whether Europe had in fact become a victim of its own success, with parliamentarians now devoting much of their time to addressing problems resulting from past initiatives, such as enlargement, the single market and the abolition of internal border controls.

However, while remaining optimistic about the EU’s future, he warned that that 2010 is “a pivotal year, a really important year.”

We now have personalities here that would not have been found in the EU of the past, and a new Treaty, and a Commission that I hope will start its work as soon as possible,” he said.

"Everything is in place to give Europe a new lease of life."

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