Speech by President Dalia Grybauskaitė at the European Parliament
This opportunity to address you brings me particular pride and happiness.
On one level, I am here, to present to you, the priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency over the next six months. But for me, and for all Lithuanians, this moment carries much more resonance and symbolism. For it was here, in the European Parliament, more than two decades ago, that the Lithuanian cry for freedom was first heard, and, with your ringing endorsement, transmitted to the world.
It was here that we started our journey from regained statehood to full-blown membership of the European Union, a journey that we completed in scarcely a decade.
Today, Lithuania returns to the Parliament proud of the path it has taken, confident of its European choice, and ready to put all its effort into building a European consensus for a better, stronger, more united future together. Then as now, the European Parliament has played a vital role in representing all the different interests of our diverse societies.
More than that, throughout its history, the Parliament has been the body which, through open and honest dialogue, has represented our shared European values.
Twenty-three years ago, those values of peace, democracy and prosperity seemed a distant dream to all Lithuanians.
Now, they are our reality. And it is our duty to make them a reality for every European citizen, North and South, East and West.
I would like to pay tribute to the outgoing Irish Presidency.
They have been exceptional colleagues, a joy to work with, and can be proud of their considerable achievements in office.
That said, I don't mind admitting that, in embarking on our first Presidency of the Council, I should have preferred not to be starting from where in Europe we find ourselves now. We are reaching the end of the legislative cycle before next year's European elections. That means for us all, and in particular for the current trio of successive Council Presidencies, an exceptionally heavy workload to share with you.
People look to the Parliament and the Council to take decisions that create jobs and keep Europe's economies on a steady path of growth. After suffering five years of economic hardship, people are justifiably impatient for results.
Which leave us with a lot of decisions to take in a short period of time.
This isn't a matter of closing legislative files. It's about opening up opportunities for our citizens. Only by ensuring Europe's financial resilience, improving its competitiveness, and boosting growth we can create jobs and restore public trust in the European project.
I firmly believe this is within our grasp if we ALL work together.
If we ALL share responsibility.
And ALL take timely action.
Member States and European institutions alike.
Delaying key decisions further is not mere postponement. It is a failure - a failure of leadership to offer solutions that risks undermining the very essence of our project.
Commission, Council and Parliament exist to show the way forward. That is why we were nominated, elected, empowered by our people.
Mr President, Honourable Members,
I say this to you as a leader of a country who knows all too well the heavy price paid for making hard choices, but also one who understands the advantages that come from taking those difficult decisions when they need to be taken.
The resolve shared by people right across my country now makes Lithuania's economy the fastest growing in Europe.
I also speak as representative of a country that draws its strength from unity.
Europe has invested heavily in developing its common market. It is both the widest, and the deepest, area of free movement for goods, services and people anywhere in the world.
Europeans are mostly free to go wherever they want within the EU to live or to work. Exercising their rights, over 15 million Europeans have moved across borders - to study, to take up employment, to enrich their own and all our lives.
Despite the economic crisis, Europe still enjoys a higher GDP than any other region in the world. More than on any other continent, Europe's economy is still powered by small and medium-sized enterprises. We are the world's leading trading power, accounting for about 20% of total world trade.
Europe continues to be the biggest investor and the destination of choice for foreign investment. And the EU and its member states account for half of all global aid. Europeans are responding to the needs of others.
Our people are delivering.
Now it's our turn to deliver for them.
Over the coming six months, by all means let us discuss and share our concerns. But let us also deliver.
It is only real outcomes that will demonstrate our commitment to the causes of democracy, peace and prosperity - the fundamentals of the Treaty on European Union.
That is why the Lithuanian Presidency is inviting all Member States and institutions to focus on building a Credible, Growing, and Open Europe.
That is the framework for our priorities.
We need a credible Europe. Because credibility is essential for a stable economy. This task falls equally on the Presidency, on the Parliament, the Commission and on all Member States.
Credibility is about finding the political will to take responsible decisions, and then to implement them.
Credibility also means proving our democratic legitimacy through actions in the interests of all our citizens.
Credibility means taking necessary decisions now, not postponing them.
Even unpopular decisions.
Credibility is about finding the way to work together - including through closer coordination of our economic and budgetary policies.
The Parliament and the Council have already reached agreement on the Single Supervisory Mechanism. We adopted the two-pack and the six-pack. In March last year, 25 Member States signed up to the Fiscal Compact, pledging themselves to strict limits on structural budget deficits and to a gradual reduction of debt levels.
The time has come to implement all those commitments and decisions.
Council, Parliament and Commission must now work hand-in-hand to get on with building a true Economic and Monetary Union.
We also need to achieve a functional Banking Union.
That's why the Lithuanian Presidency will put effort into making as much progress as possible in negotiations on the Single Resolution Mechanism, ensuring that both euro and non-euro area Member States are able to contribute and benefit from effective economic governance.
A growing Europe is an overwhelming task for everyone. Restoring credibility to the EU is a first step towards improving the general health of the European economy. Although we have already made significant progress, much still remains to be done. But to regain the trust of our people we need to deliver sustainable growth.
Only with growth-oriented policies can we tackle unacceptably high levels of unemployment, especially among young people.
Each unemployed man or woman, young or old, holds within them a story. A story of struggle and unfulfilled dreams.
That is why the Lithuanian Presidency will spare no effort in facing up to the urgent and, in an ever more present way, dangerous issue of unemployment.
We shall put a relentless focus on creating jobs. Invoking the Youth Guarantee scheme, we shall strive to find new ways to create conditions which boost employment opportunities for young people in particular.
Key to unlocking growth and jobs is our common services market. We saw significant progress since adoption of the Services Directive, but quite a few barriers still persist.
To this end, the Lithuanian Presidency will work on the legislatives initiatives that are intended to create the right framework for cross-border workers.
Growth must be not only jobs rich, but also environmentally friendly.
And vice versa - our climate policies should be based on a careful assessment of their impact on competitiveness of our industries.
The Lithuanian Presidency will lead the EU's preparations for the annual UN Climate Change Conference this year, which should allow us to make progress towards reaching a new global agreement in 2015. Serious commitment of all countries on a global level is essential to ensure that competitiveness and environment policies supplement each other. A better-functioning internal market will generate a stronger growth.
Since its creation, the internal market has been the EU's greatest economic success. It has created millions of jobs. It has fostered more competition, at more affordable prices.
Just as an example, let's take energy.
According to the European Commission, if the EU becomes a fully integrated market, it could save as much as 35 billion euros a year in electricity costs in 2015 compared with 2012.
Today, our citizens and businesses pay far too much for their energy. That makes our economy less competitive, and leaves consumers with less purchasing power. The lack of an internal market in energy opens up an energy security vacuum. Which is why the Parliament, Council, and Commission recently agreed on rapid action to address these energy challenges.
We agreed that the internal energy market must be completed by 2014, and that no EU Member State should remain isolated from European gas and electricity networks after 2015.
This commitment must remain at the cornerstone of our energy agenda. So the Lithuanian Presidency will work to speed up all efforts in this area.
We shall closely monitor proper implementation of previously agreed measures and legal frameworks, including the 3rd Energy Package in particular. But it is also Lithuania's firm conviction that more funds need to be directed towards creating a modern energy infrastructure across the EU. So we shall devote special attention to the task of agreeing European-wide list of projects of common interest which can benefit from the Connecting Europe Facility.
We shall also work to develop the external dimension of EU energy policy - an essential element for completion of the internal energy market.
So long as the internal market in energy, services, the digital economy, remains incomplete, Europe's citizens will have reason to question the value of the Union.
That is why the Lithuanian Presidency will devote effort to completing the Single Market Act I, and advancing the Single Market Act II, initiatives.
The Digital Market and implementation of the Services Directive will also be priorities.
Mr President, Distinguished Members,
Reducing the cost of rolling out the infrastructure for broadband and e-identification could transform the way businesses operate across the EU. So we shall advance the e-procurement and e-invoicing initiatives. These are key to more efficient public administration and improved competition across the Single Market. Of course, a digital economy will always elude us if we cannot deliver cyber security.
It is high time we stopped having to catch up with this challenge, and instead got ahead of it.
With your wisdom and long experience, you will doubtless say to yourselves that the priorities I have outlined so far risk taking longer than six months to be able to be fulfilled.
But I make no apologies for soaring ambition.
Those ambitions are founded, in part, on the belief that, before next May's European elections, we have a shared interest in demonstrating to the voters of Europe how much has been achieved during your current mandate.
After political agreement on Multi-annual financial framework (MFF), (and I hope you will afford it with a vote after my speech) we can move forward together to adopt all the budget-related legislative proposals before us by the end of 2013.
I hardly need remind you that these include multi-annual programmes like the Youth Guarantee scheme, Horizon 2020, and Cohesion spending - all essential for investment, growth and jobs.
This is the burden of responsibility that all of us - Member State governments and institutions - share together.
Let us not fail the people of Europe.
It gives me great pleasure today to welcome the accession of the EU's 28th Member State, Croatia. The people of Croatia should take pride in their successful efforts to achieve membership. The conditions of membership are, by design, challenging. Those who overcome the challenges are those who see the European Union as open, and ready both to give and to receive.
Europe has always been at its best when it has been an open Europe.
A Europe that has unfailingly fought for peace, democracy and human rights.
A Europe which, after 50 years of conflict and division, has successfully reunited the continent.
These efforts were recognized by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize - an award which inspires us to promote these same values beyond the EU's current borders. It is because an Open Europe is a core principle of our Union that the Lithuanian Presidency will strive to achieve free trade arrangements with Europe's trading partners.
Our attention will focus on FTA negotiations with Japan, and our Mediterranean neighbours and the United States.
At the same time, we shall seek closer integration between the EU and its Eastern Partners. Those partners who have made their European choice must know that they too are welcome, when they are ready, to join our family.
I am keen that November's Summit in Vilnius should be seen as a summit of opportunity for both the EU and its Eastern neighbours. I earnestly hope that Vilnius Summit can mark substantial progress in achieving the mutually-desired aim of political association and economic integration between the EU and its Eastern neighbors.
In this as in other respects, the Lithuanian Presidency will want to work closely with all the EU institutions, and of course the European Parliament in particular.
Mr President, Honourable Members
In our inevitable preoccupation with the economic challenges that face us, we risk forgetting the fundamentals of what the EU is about.
Ours is a Union of values.
It serves, first and foremost, to make people's lives better.
This is the European Year of Citizens, underlining our responsibility to show our people that the European Union is Credible, that it can grow, and that it remains Open to others in the years to come.
It is our shared duty to lead by example.
To spare no effort in putting in place solutions which create the conditions for people to be able to exercise their liberties and fulfil their potential.
I take this opportunity to appeal to you, distinguished Members of the European Parliament, for your help in steering the ambitious agenda of the Lithuanian Presidency safely to harbour. Because key to the success of our common endeavor is close and efficient cooperation between our respective institutions.
Like never before, European citizens are impatient for results. While the outlook remains stormy. But Lithuania is well prepared for the challenge, to chart a way through.And with your help, we can reach our destination together.
Let's get on with the job that faces us today.
Thank you very much for your attention.
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