Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

The Italian Presidency

Delivered in Plenary - July 3rd 2003

Mr President

I wish to begin by thanking the House for allowing the President-in-Office to present his important message uninterrupted. I am a great Italophile and a friend of Alleanza nazionale and of Forza Italia in Parliament.

Mr Berlusconi wisely refers positively to the wider European debate. I agree, and I welcome strengthening the links with Ukraine and Moldova in particular. I would ask for a formal acknowledgement for the first time that under Article 49 of the Treaty they are entitled to apply for eventual EU membership. Nevertheless, the absence in Chisinau of a European Commission delegation and the fact that Italy, unlike Britain, France and Germany, does not have an embassy in Moldova - in spite of links with the Romanian-speaking peoples - is regrettable. Pressure must be brought to finally resolve the Transnistrian question, which truncates and corrupts the Moldovan state. The regime recently snubbed a delegation of MEPs from this House from entering the occupied territory. Pressure on Russia and Ukraine would help solve this matter.

It is important also that the EU engages constructively with Belarus where, notwithstanding our differences, we must engage positively in areas of mutual interest, like border controls, and in order to encourage reforms and democracy and discourage self-isolation by that government.

I call upon the Council to grant a political mandate to the EIB for the first time to extend its operations to Ukraine and Moldova in expectation of their eventual EU candidatures. After all, the EIB is already active in Russia, where I, of course, welcome Mr Berlusconi's interest and engagement. I applaud the beefing up of the trans-European networks and a good start would be for a fast train between Brussels and Strasbourg to make our lives as MEPs much more bearable. I also welcome the reinvigoration of the Lisbon Agenda, without which our continent will lose out to the emerging markets of the East and the proposed free-trade areas of the Americas.

Lastly, I welcome Italy's efforts to robustly secure Europe's southern frontiers against illegal immigration. However, how can this be reconciled with the Commission's communication on a wider Europe, which seems to controversially promise eventual freedom of movement to people from the Euro-Med partnership countries?