Dear Parliament President, dear Antonio, dear Commission President and above all dear Council President, dear Prime Minister! A cordial welcome, as a former colleague, an even bigger welcome to your former domain in the European Parliament! We are having a basic debate here: in the European Parliament, there are those right-wing politicians who claim that nations would lose their influence because of Europe, the nations would become redundant and would be dissolved. I think that the start of the Maltese Presidency today is a symbol of the contrary: that a country like Malta, a little country like Malta, with its membership in Europe, has size, power and assertiveness and can bring its interests to the European level. That’s why we appreciate your Presidency - a politically important symbol.
The priorities are properly laid out: first, migration. Spring is coming - we all want to see an end to the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea that we see every year, that we reduce them as much as possible! We need concrete steps for this. As parliamentarians, we always have the same request when a new Council Presidency introduces itself: please also take care of implementing the things that have been agreed. For example, in Valletta, an Africa Fund of €1.8 billion was agreed upon, and the Member States - you - have, in the meantime, paid €80 million. Only four percent of the money that was promised has been paid. What we are seeing here is a tragedy: a lot of commitments but no delivery by the Member States. Deal with this!
And we must end the obstruction around the issue of solidarity in Europe, we must find the right balance between aid and the fight against illegal migration. We want to work on the fight against terrorism - you mentioned it. We need more enforcement, more implementation. The deficits are obvious: after every terror attack - in Paris, in Brussels and in Berlin too - Home Affairs Ministers meet and complain that the data exchange isn’t working out, that we aren’t advancing with data exchange. Therefore, we argue that we in Parliament must also deal with this issue in a special committee, that we investigate the reasons why. It can’t be that citizens are not protected enough because the exchange of data doesn’t work. At the moment, this is an issue where citizens are demanding more Europe - more Europe, more security.
A third issue is the keyword ‘fairness’ and justice on this continent. The fact that certain groups of people don’t pay any taxes and the ordinary workman foots the bill - this is a no-go. And if we include Panama, the issue of the tax havens that we already discussed briefly today, I ask you to deal with this issue. Our societies request justice.
And lastly, I would like to mention that in the coming weeks, we will also vote on an important issue - for more jobs. If we want to create jobs on this continent, if we want to give a future to the young generation, especially in the south of the continent, we must be open to a modern trade policy. We will vote on CETA. And I am extremely grateful that a socialist government, a left government in Malta, is committed to CETA and clearly stands by CETA, so that we can move forward with this issue.
I allow myself to bring up another issue, a purely technical one, but nonetheless an important one for us parliamentarians: I beg you to start preparing the 2019 elections. We are working on a European electoral law, and we need more movement in the European Council, in the Council of Ministers in order to advance on the issue and to have a stable legislative base to hold the elections in 2019.
We wish you good luck! Europe needs compromise, needs cooperation: the EPP Group is ready for it.
(Translation from the original German)