Tuesday, 2 September 2003

The Euro-Revolt

Two seismic world events have defined our times. They’ve framed a generation’s hopes and its fears. On 9th November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down – the Cold War was over.

The shockwaves from that event swept through the streets and squares of this historic city. Those of us old enough to remember 1968 were overjoyed when an old regime was soon overthrown and the true and indomitable spirit of the Czech people emerged again.

The second historic event produced a very different kind of shockwave, evil and destructive in nature.

On 11 September 2001 America was violated by terrorism without limits. Evil men – using unimaginable weapons – declared war: a war against democracy and the rule of law, against religious and economic freedom.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the twin towers were world-changing events. The hope and freedom that flourished because of the first are endangered by the terrorists who spawned the second.

The European nations must respond to today’s challenges with vision and resolution, with the same kind of clarity shown by the EU’s founders.

Living in the devastating aftermath of World War II, they were deeply scarred by the experiences of defeat and occupation on continental Europe. They strove to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. They succeeded.

For, under the umbrella of Nato, great prosperity was created from the rubble of the second world war; nations once locked in conflict became friends.

And – crowning everything that has gone before – great nations like the Czech Republic – once trapped on the wrong side of the iron curtain – are now about to join the European Union.

This historic enlargement is the European Union’s greatest achievement and the culmination of its post-war purpose. An enlarged European Union of which Britain is a committed member.

The Union’s founders built a solid foundation. They built structures that served their times well.

But some of those structures are no longer right for today’s Europe or today’s world.

The children and grandchildren of those who shaped post-war Europe now want to stand on the shoulders of their forefathers to advance a vision of their own.

In 50 years’ time, historians will ask if Europe’s peoples faced up to today’s challenges. Or did they sink their energies into devising a constitution that looked back to all the old problems and addressed none of the new?

Did the leaders of Europe’s nations reform the eurozone or turn their back on 13,000,000 unemployed people? Did they face up to the threat of terror in the post-9/11 world or ignore the world’s rogue nations?

Did Europe turn its attention to the problems of Africa or did it turn away?

As new members of the EU, the peoples of the Czech Republic and Central Europe will play a decisive role in building a Europe able to answer this century’s questions.

Which is why I’m so pleased to join representatives of the ODS and Poland’s Law and Justice Party in signing the Prague Declaration – a declaration that recognises that Europe’s free nations are at a historic crossroads.

If we choose one way we head towards a centralised and federalist Europe. But if we choose the other road we will create a partnership of sovereign states. trading freely with each other and co-operating on matters of common interest.

Which future shall we choose? Do we want Old Europe, not so much a group of countries as a state of mind – a state of mind obsessed with building a United States of Europe, a United States of Europe ruled by unaccountable and supranational institutions.

An Old Europe, complacent in the face of intensifying economic competition, and trying to hide from the new global economy. An Old Europe that is hesitant in the face of the growing terrorist threat.

But there is nothing inevitable about the journey plotted by Old Europe.

The British, Czech and Polish peoples – and all people who cherish democratic freedoms – want a different path, a different destination. They want a New Europe.

A New Europe of democracies ready to meet the challenges of today’s world, each ready to serve a new generation’s ideals. A New Europe where sovereign democracies work together in a spirit of enterprise. But never at the cost of their own independence, and never at the expense of the world beyond Europe’s borders.

Let me be clear: The Conservative Party does not want Britain to leave the European Union. We want to make it work. Anyone who says differently is telling a lie.

The truth is that we are as committed to building a New Europe of sovereign democracies as we are opposed to a United States of Europe. That’s the real choice. That’s the real debate.

A vote against the Constitution is not a vote to leave the European Union.

The Conservative Party’s commitment to the European Union is rooted in our commitment to the permanent interests and values of the British people.

Permanent interests and values that have also been formed by our special relationships with the countries of the English- speaking world and the whole Commonwealth.

Our vision of New Europe is about more than just a reaction to the faults of the EU’s existing arrangements. It is a positive vision, a practical vision, a Europe of free nations – sovereign and freedom-loving, a Europe of democracies, strong national parliaments and vigorous local politics.

The existing institutions of the EU are not meeting today’s challenges. Its centralised structures represent a costly and ineffective compromise between the supranational and the intergovernmental.

New Europe must be politically honest, more transparent and more accountable to the people who pay for it, founded on co- operation between nations – not soulless supranational institutions.

The Commission must be the servant of the European Council and not the core of a European government. The Council – not the Commission – should take the lead in trans-European policies and initiatives.

The national veto should be protected on issues of fundamental importance.

The Council should have the same priorities as Britain’s outstanding Conservative MEPs, who, in their battle against fraud, their support for businesses and farmers, and their commitment to effective aid policies, have shown the way forward.

This is our vision – a Europe of national democracies, trading freely with each other and committed to freedom and democracy around the world.

There are those who wilfully misrepresent the choices facing Europe’s democracies.

They are trying to bully the British and Europe’s other peoples into believing that it’s Old Europe or no Europe. Old Europe has closed its mind to the possibilities of New Europe.

It says all Europe’s nations must accept the euro; accept the constitution, accept the aid budget riddled with corruption, accept the common foreign policy, accept the common defence policy. Accept all these things or they must get out.

This is a false choice.

The British, Czech and Polish peoples have every right to be in the European Union and reject the euro and the constitution.

Some claim the British people will lose influence if they reject Old Europe’s agenda. But influence must never be bought at the price of our permanent interest – influence is a means.

Britain’s permanent national interest is an end.

Recently, in Munich, President Klaus issued a prophetic warning. He declared that democracy cannot exist in an entity larger than an independent and sovereign state. He spoke of the “fragility and vulnerability” of Europe’s prosperity, and he warned about the dangers of stoking anti-Americanism.

Those were timely warnings – warnings we must heed. And they are why the British Conservative Party – and many other peoples across this continent – are ready to campaign for a New Europe.

A New Europe of democracies, a New Europe of enterprise, a New Europe of nations dedicating their will and wealth to the twin objectives of global justice and global security.

Building a New Europe is the task before us – and it is an urgent task. New Europe must be built on a redefined relationship between power and people.

Political power should be rooted in the national democratic institutions that bind people together in common purpose and so inspire loyalty.

The draft European constitution invokes the words of Thucydides.

And I quote:

“Our Constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.”

This is a reminder of our shared democratic heritage, but also a warning of what’s at risk.

This continent has generated the greatest concentration of democracies in history. Every country in Europe has taken a different path but all have arrived at a point where people have won the right to change their government at the ballot box.

The Czech people – and the other peoples of Central Europe – know that right needs defending.

It was Vaclav Klaus who said:

“We know what it means to lose sovereignty, to wait for directives coming from a remote city, to follow rules formulated not at home and not democratically.

Because of that we are against unnecessary centralisation and unification of Europe.”

And he went on to say:

“The current European unification process is not about opening up.

It is about centralism, about regulation and control, about redistribution and social transfers, about the ever-increasing role of an unelected and uncontrolled bureaucracy, about the retreat from classical parliamentarism.”

The British Government says that the Constitution is simply a tidying up exercise; the consolidation, they say, of existing treaties.

But every last one of those treaties was presented to the British people as an exercise in the cooperation of sovereign nations, and it was on that basis that the British people gave Parliament the authority to negotiate and ratify successive treaties.

Now something altogether different is proposed. A constitution for the EU which would mean that no individual nation would be able to alter the highest laws by which it is governed.

It would put the making of these laws beyond nations, surrendering them to supranational and unaccountable institutions and remote European judges.

This constitution will change the European Union from being the biggest partnership of democracies in the world, to the biggest bureaucracy in the world; to an increasingly centralised and unaccountable political union; from a special kind of body created by the treaty commitments of signatory democracies to a state, with its own legal personality.

In short: a unique power, with its own constitution and supremacy over our national laws.

For too long the supranationalist agenda of the Old European mindset has been masked. That time is past. What was once concealed is now revealed; there is no hiding what stares us in the face.

A constitution that would lead inescapably to ever more power being transferred to Brussels; a blueprint for a United States of Europe in all but name; one president; one currency; and now one constitution.

Presidents and Prime Ministers from across Europe recognise the significance of the proposed constitution.

It would establish the primacy of the Union over the member states. Some politicians honestly welcome it, others – equally honestly – oppose it, but all recognise its fundamental importance.

That’s why many European leaders will give their people the final say in a referendum. But the British people are not being given the referendum they want and deserve.

The argument that ordinary people don’t understand the issues well enough to make the right decision is as pathetic as it is patronising.

The British people already know they don’t need the constitution – they don’t want it. Given the chance, I believe, they’ll vote against it. And in campaigning for a referendum we won’t let them down.

It is even claimed that Parliament can decide – because Parliament is sovereign, but Parliament has no more right to lay Britain’s sovereignty at the feet of a foreign constitution than it has to ban elections.

No British government has the authority to give away that which it does not own because the Westminster Parliament’s authority is founded in the will of the British people.

An EU constitution would thwart the will of the peoples of Europe and over-rule their national parliaments. That’s why the Conservative Party’s opposition to the adoption of a European constitution is a matter of principle.

It’s a basic principle that sovereignty belongs to individual nations and their peoples.

What Europe needs now is a democratic revolution, the return of power to nation states, to the parliaments and assemblies with which the peoples of Europe identify.

To be in favour of the best of Europe means to be in favour of the democratic liberties of its nation states. Democracy is not just an abstraction or a system for counting votes. Democracy only thrives when it is embodied in a living culture and society, where voters can change the way they are governed.

The sense of loyalty and identification people feel towards their country’s democratic institutions is a condition of real democracy and a consequence of it. Real democracies are living political communities formed by human history.

Governments elected by members of those communities are expected to represent vital national interests. They are accessible through popular media and accountable through the ballot box.

The institutions of the EU can never command the deep loyalty and affection that are the lifeblood of true democracy. Real, living democracies are worth defending and, ultimately, worth dying for.

National parliaments – cherished and strengthened – must once again be the foundation of the European Union.

Our second challenge is to build on the rock of Europe’s post-war economic achievements.

From the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951 to the European Economic Community that Britain joined in the 1970s – the evolving European Union has underpinned an economic miracle.

And I pay tribute to such a significant achievement and the many benefits it has brought Europe’s peoples.

We should also acknowledge the enormous contribution of America, first through its Marshall Plan, then – through Nato – to Europe’s defence.

But the European Union cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Old European thinking isn’t working anymore.

In recent times the US labour force has grown twice as fast as Europe’s. If the EU had matched America’s performance there would be 28 million extra jobs and the annual output per worker would be £5,000 or 230,000 Koruna higher.

The constitution does nothing to simplify the 97,000 pages that form the EU’s burdensome legal code.

In today’s intensely competitive global environment the European Union needs to relearn some economic truths and relearn them fast.

High tax economies that over-regulate businesses and fail to reward enterprise do not create wealth – they create budget deficits, unemployment and social injustice.

The more that businesses and entrepreneurs are held back the more vulnerable communities are left behind, and the less Europe is able to meet the implications of its ageing populations and the looming pension crises.

Despite endless talk about economic reform, most of Europe’s economies still suffer from rigid labour markets and high external trade barriers.

They have not been helped by the euro. Many of the eurozone’s economies have been crippled by a combination of supply-side rigidity and monetary inflexibility.

Does anyone seriously believe that an interest rate manufactured in Frankfurt will ever be right for Copenhagen, London, Madrid and Warsaw at the same time?

Within the European Union there should be freedom for different member countries to choose whether or not to participate in particular initiatives.

If others are happy with the euro experiment, we cannot and should not stand in their way, and we certainly wish them no ill. But Britain won’t be joining them.

It’s not a matter of believing the euro is against Britain’s interests., but of knowing that it’s against Britain’s interests.

Businesses need to plan ahead, voters want honesty – both can be sure that, with a Conservative government, Britain will not join the euro.

Conservatives also want to halt Britain’s current march towards Old European levels of tax and regulation. This self-destructive path to economic convergence is a huge threat to the British economy. We must deliver European economies that work.

Conservatives will work with our European friends to complete the single market, a project proudly and successfully championed by British Conservatives in the 1980s.

And we won’t stop there. Global free trade must be the European Union’s long-term economic ambition.

In the meantime we want Europe to trade freely with countries to our east – not least with Russia and Turkey. These great nations are important neighbours and I would welcome the negotiation of deeper special relationships with them.

We also want the EU to begin talks with Nafta about an Atlantic Free Trade Area, and at exactly the same time, we must lift the trade barriers that so unfairly punish the world’s poorest farmers and producers.

Europe’s prosperity and any hope for the continent’s thirteen million unemployed people depend upon urgently-needed economic liberalisation.

The talk must stop. Ambitious reform must be delivered. In our increasingly interconnected world Europe’s peoples have a moral duty to the world’s poorest nations.

But it is no longer only a moral duty. Conscience and self- interest lead us to the same conclusions.

Extremes of poverty and disease produce the failed states of tomorrow. Failed states breed terrorism and the drugs trade. Failed states force mismanagement of the environment and perilous flights of refugees. Global injustices feed global insecurity.

With compassion and courage Europe’s democracies must tackle both together. We must defeat terrorism, rid the EU aid budget of corruption and waste, and reform agricultural and trade policies that are damaging third world producers and the natural environment.

In the post 9/11 world America and the individual European democracies must act together. Act together against the terrorists – and terrorist-sponsoring states – who hate our way of life and want to destroy it.

When the world’s only remaining superpower does the right thing in the defence of our security and freedom – as much as its own – it deserves the support of proud European democracies like Britain, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Of course, America is not perfect. British Conservatives oppose the tariffs Washington uses to protect West Virginian steel- makers or the subsidies given to Texan cotton farmers.

But Europe’s nations could not have a better ally than America. We must continue to strengthen Nato as the foundation of European collective defence and security.

Europe’s nations must develop a greater capability for their own defence and security. But this capability must be exercised within Nato.

The European Security and Defence Policy is generating friction between Europe and the United States. When the ESDP was first created, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright warned against, what she called, the three ‘D’s; duplication of Nato structures; discrimination against non-EU members of Nato; decoupling of US and European security policy.

Now, sadly, we are witnessing the beginning of all three. The European nations and the US cannot tackle global insecurity if we become rivals rather than partners.

If Europe does not want the US to go it alone, then why is the EU preparing to act unilaterally? Collective defence and security is perhaps the most fundamental reason for rejecting a European Constitution.

The difference between the EU and Nato is simple. Nato guarantees national sovereignty, the EU constitution will subjugate it.

The USA is not our enemy. Humanity’s enemy is hunger, disease, dictatorship and genocide. What will the European nations do about all these?

What will we do in Ethiopia, where hunger has come to regions that have never known it before? What will we do for Africa; a continent ravaged by war and disease, where 8,000 people die every day from HIV/Aids?

What will we do about Zimbabwe, where millions of its citizens are threatened with violence and terror because they dare to criticise Robert Mugabe’s reign of terror?

A few weeks ago, Bob Geldof described the EU’s response to global poverty as “pathetic and appalling.”

The mismanagement of the EU aid budget is a scandal. It’s not just another story of bureaucracy gone mad, but of lives that could have been saved, but weren’t.

Why does so much of the EU aid budget end up in the hands of corrupt officials? Why is so much of the current EU aid budget having to pick up the pieces from the Union’s protectionist trade policies?

Could charities like Oxfam, Cafod and a hundred smaller development bodies spend Britain’s near one billion pounds contribution more effectively? The same institutions and values that produce sustainable development at home should be promoted overseas.

Open government, an independent judiciary, religious freedom and free trade must underpin development policy.

But the EU shuts out the poorest nations of the world through punitive trade barriers, many of them central to the Common Agricultural Policy.

The world is hungrier because of what EU agriculture and fishing policies have done to the world’s poorest farmers and producers.

Recent reforms to the Cap are welcome but are still insufficient to make it work. The first duty of Europe’s peoples is to ensure that national democratic and economic freedoms are protected for the next generation, that duty requires critical choices in coming years.

But history places even greater demands on us. Future generations probably won’t remember what political or economic reforms we pursue in the next ten years – unless we get them badly wrong.

But history will ask how we used our freedoms and or prosperity. Did we have the foresight to eliminate networks of terror or did we sleep while the menace grew?

Did we open our hearts and minds to the poorest nations of the earth or close our markets to third world farmers and producers?

Did we rise to the challenges of our time or drown in them? Did we make bold promises or did we make a difference?

Throughout this speech I’ve focused on the major challenges facing Europe. They are urgent challenges that require strong and resolute responses.

Instead we have been presented with the proposed EU Constitution. But if this Constitution is the answer – what on earth was the question? It’s an old treaty proposing old solutions for old times.

Contrary to the intentions of the Laeken Declaration it takes the Union further away from the interests of Europe’s peoples.

The Old European mind isn’t even asking twenty-first century questions, let alone providing twenty-first century answers.

Old Europe has become as detached from the spirit which first inspired co-operation as it is from the will of today’s European peoples.

Now we must rekindle that spirit and so reunite Europe’s direction with the will of its national democracies.

Conservatives want Britain’s membership of the European Union to succeed, and that is why – with others – we are committed to campaign for the New European vision I have set out today.

The positive vision of Europe set out in the Prague Declaration; a Europe that focuses on the practical problems facing its peoples; a New Europe of democracies; intergovernmental – not supranational; equipped to compete in world markets; ready to overcome this century’s challenges; the global challenges of poverty, disease and terror.

Great causes are championed by strong democratic nations. The European Union can only prosper as an alliance of sovereign democracies, a Europe of nations in a world of nations willing to fight for its own peoples and for a fairer, safer world.

A stronger Britain in a stronger Europe, a Europe that works – a New Europe.

Iain Duncan Smith

This is the full text of a speech aimed at the newest EU members in Prague.