Rede des Präsidenten des Europäischen Parlaments

European Parliament President Martin Schulz
Speech of the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, at the
European Council of 20 October 2016
Internal Policies and EU Institutions
Ladies and gentlemen,
I come with a clear message to you from the
European Parliament: acting to stop the
bloodshed in Syria should be the number one
priority on your list.
We have witnessed with utter dismay the
relentless bombing of Aleppo by the Syrian
regime with the air support of Russia. Once
more, it has shattered the Syrians’ hope of
ending the war. Once again, all principles of
international law have been breached. Allow
me to thank President Hollande for his strong
stance against any impunity for those
involved in war crimes. The European
Parliament calls for consequences and
accountability for those guilty of committing
war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Russia and the Assad regime must stop all
attacks targeting civilians, civilian
infrastructure and medical facilities, and must
take credible and immediate steps for
cessation of hostilities and allow unhindered access for humanitarian agencies to reach all
people in need. The EU emergency humanitarian initiative for Aleppo is of course welcome but it
will amount to little if access for humanitarian aid deliveries and medical evacuations is denied.
Although the Russian leadership continues to control the military ground in Syria it is
increasingly becoming isolated both diplomatically and morally. Russian leaders therefore have
a responsibility to take steps to restore credibility and confidence in line with their international
role as a Member of the United Nations Security Council. The EU must always keep the door
open to bring them back to the negotiating table. And for this we must use all available
In Syria as well as in Ukraine, Russia is the one maintaining the painful status quo. It is Russia
which is challenging the global security architecture and the established principles of
international law.
And it is only through a strong European policy, by keeping EU sanctions concerning actions
against Ukraine's territorial integrity that we can hope to achieve respect by Russia of its
commitments under the 2015 Minsk agreement.
The credibility of EU foreign policy is at stake.
We expect full respect of the ceasefire in force since 31 August, a disarmament of all illegal
groups and a restoration of control of the state border to the Ukrainian government.
Russia should focus on these points rather than contesting the damning report from the Dutch
investigation into the crash of flight MH17 in 2014.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz
Ukraine also has its part to play, in particular in reforming the constitution and the electoral law,
and on decentralisation. I add that an effective fight against corruption and a comprehensive
reform of the judiciary are more than ever needed. Ukrainian citizens want peace, but they also
expect the rule of law. And with these reforms, the EU should agree as soon as possible on visa
liberalisation with Ukraine. This will be a strong message of support sent to Ukraine, a concrete
message to its citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is another key reason to maintain sanctions which is the lack of progress in Crimea. Since
its annexation by Russia, human rights are being increasingly violated over there, in particular
those of the Tatars. On 18 September, Russian legislative elections produced seven “Members”
of the Duma from Crimea. The EU should continue its policy of non-recognition and keep the
situation in Crimea high on its agenda in every international setting in which Russia participates.
Implementation of the sanctions policy is a matter for all EU institutions and a test of their
Our official interparliamentary relations with, and missions to, Russia are frozen and the EP
stands ready to define further this policy together with the other institutions.
Lastly, I believe that we can’t discuss EU-Russia relations without taking into account the
propagandists and cheerleaders of President Putin, populists who are operating on both sides of
the Atlantic, including within the Institution which I preside. They cooperate across borders,
practically and financially, yet they insist that our citizens and societies must retreat and cower in
fear behind closed borders and walls.
Let me tell you this: an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament will never accept that
our values and way of life, as you put it recently President Tusk, our liberal democracies, are
sacrificed in this way!
Rather than undermining the international legal order and humanitarian instruments, we should
be more determined than ever in promoting multilateralism. On behalf of the European
Parliament, I congratulate Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on his achievements in this fight and
know that his successor will continue with the same determination.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A comprehensive debate on trade issues is timely.
Who would have thought ten years ago that trade issues would be such a lightning rod of public
concern as they are today?
Globalisation is increasingly being seen, not as opening up a world of opportunities, but as
causing a race to the bottom and eroding our core values. It is now perceived by many as a
threat to jobs, food standards, public services and social systems.
These fears fuel a negative attitude towards trade agreements, and in particular the two big
transatlantic trade deals on the table.
The privately organised system of investment dispute settlement was a core concern of civil
society, trade unions and local communities. Several governments and the Commission
understood this and came with a balanced solution, called the Investment Court System.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz
In an unprecedented step, Canada agreed, after the closure of the negotiations, to include this
Investment Court System in CETA. Canada was also willing to address other EU concerns in an
additional declaration to the agreement. Therefore, we now have a CETA agreement that can be
the standard for ongoing and upcoming talks with our partners around the world.
Nobody would understand if it were not possible now, after so many efforts, to reach an
agreement. The European Parliament expects solutions to be found urgently so that the EU and
Canada can sign CETA and the European Parliament can swiftly launch its procedures for
granting consent.
Of course I cannot pre-empt the outcome of our vote, but I think CETA in its current form has the
potential to muster a clear majority within the European Parliament.
It also seems appropriate that those parts of CETA which the EU legislator considers to be
under exclusive EU competence be applied provisionally following the European Parliament’s
consent. And once the Court of Justice issues its Opinion on the Singapore Free Trade
Agreement, we will have more clarity from the legal perspective on the dividing line between EU
and national competence.
On the other hand, talks with the United States have developed differently. Our partner has not
yet shown much willingness to include the new investment chapter in TTIP and other European
concerns also seemed to meet with a lukewarm reaction. Core European interests such as the
protection of agricultural geographic indications, the liberalisation of public procurement or
transport services are not properly taken into account.
At this point in time, it is therefore clear that the TTIP negotiations will not be concluded soon.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Trade policy should not only be about lowering tariffs and reducing barriers, but also about
ensuring a level playing-field and preventing unfair competition. This problem is particularly
pressing for some third countries. For example, we all know that a level playing-field with China
does not exist in several sectors, for instance the steel industry.
As President Juncker rightly put it in his speech on the State of the Union, with broad support in
the European Parliament, we should not be “naïve free traders”. Common solutions are always
best, but we need to keep up a sufficient level of trade defence to forcefully protect our markets
from dumping and other unfair practices. The reform of Trade Defence Instruments has been
pending in Council for too long. I remind you that the proposal was presented in 2013 and that
the European Parliament issued its position in 2014. We urgently need a modernised set of rules
on a par with other world powers – more transparent, more predictable, more accessible to
SMEs and, above all, faster and more dissuasive.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to make a few comments on trade policy in general.
You decided as Member States when you signed the Lisbon Treaty to upgrade the Common
Commercial Policy into a genuine Community policy. This was intended to reinforce the Union’s
position as a strong trading partner speaking with a single voice.
Now, in the light of public debates in some Member States, there are accusations that the Union
is interfering in their affairs.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz
Such an incoherence is perhaps understandable from a domestic political point of view, but as
President of the European Parliament I must say that it is extremely risky for the future of EU
trade policy.
In addition, international agreements between the EU and other parts of the world receive for
those parts under exclusive competence their necessary democratic legitimacy through the indepth scrutiny from day one until the final vote of consent in the European Parliament.
It is only natural that national Parliaments take a close interest in the EU’s trade policy. The
European Parliament supports these national Parliaments in their efforts to ensure their
governments are fully scrutinised at the moment when they decide on the negotiating mandate
for these trade agreements.
Member States which have voted unanimously in favour of a given mandate for trade
negotiations should not then hide behind the Union or the Commission. They should on the
contrary agree to systematically publish these mandates. They should come out and defend
before their citizens what they voted for and be open about their convictions and goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Trade has become one of the most debated and controversial issues of today’s politics, and not
just in Europe.
Yet, I feel there is much confusion on this subject.
From my conversations with EU citizens, I am convinced that Europeans do not fear free trade:
they fear unfair trade.
If only we can compete on a level playing-field, we have in Europe a skilled, dynamic and
creative workforce that can compete with anyone in the world!
What European citizens fear is a world where international labour standards are trampled, where
trade unions are outlawed, where taxes are evaded, where inequality is always on the rise,
where currencies are manipulated and exports dumped.
It is therefore our duty to allay those fears and to show European citizens that we can shape
globalisation and not be overwhelmed by it. If we don’t act now, international rules will be set by
Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Parliament welcomes the launch two weeks ago of the European Border and
Coastguard. That it has taken only nine months to get from a proposal to a published legislative
text and to implementation is no small achievement. We welcome the strong commitment of the
Slovak Presidency to focus on making it operational over the next weeks.
To properly manage the refugee and migration crisis, solidarity is needed at many levels:
Solidarity with the refugees in keeping with our fundamental values – for example the Italian
navy saving lives at sea every day;
Solidarity with third countries hosting many more refugees than we do – for example through the
Fund for Refugees in Turkey;
European Parliament President Martin Schulz
Solidarity at the external border – such as the recent assistance provided to Bulgaria, or the
equipment and staff to be provided to the rapid reaction pool of the European Border and
Solidarity with the countries at the frontline – in particular Italy, Greece and Bulgaria – and this
means financing, equipment and personnel at the hotspots. The ongoing shortage of EU experts
deployed in Greece to EASO be it for relocation or for the implementation of the EU-Turkey
statement needs your urgent attention,
Solidarity by applying legally-binding decisions on relocation and the implementing all parts of
the EU-Turkey statement;
Solidarity in respecting the common rules, for example on fingerprinting, on jurisdiction, on
returns, or on asylum procedures and reception conditions. The reform of the asylum package,
including Dublin, must be upgraded to a priority also in the Council;
And of course solidarity with the countries having to integrate refugees.
It cannot be a matter of cherry-picking which of these forms of solidarity is most desirable: à la
carte solidarity will lead us into a wall. Whatever we want to call it, what we need is “effective”
solidarity, simultaneously and at all levels of EU action on asylum and migration.
There is certainly no reason to congratulate ourselves on the results achieved by the EU in this
area. The relatively calm situation on the Aegean Sea is not proof that all is under control. Much
work lies ahead and the Union should tackle it with a stronger focus on measured results, freed
from unnecessary ideological or terminological debates.
You will also discuss the different migration "compacts" currently being crafted with certain third
countries. The European Parliament has many times encouraged this external dimension. It is
clear for everyone that Turkey’s situation back in March was urgent and exceptional and cannot
be considered a precedent. There is no single blueprint which will fit all countries. What we need
is for all institutional actors on the EU side to be working closely together, going beyond national
stances, pooling diplomatic efforts and ensuring the democratic scrutiny of such arrangements.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European Parliament welcomes the fact that there is now some clarity on the date when the
United Kingdom will make its withdrawal notification under Article 50. It would have been a very
difficult thing to explain that UK citizens would still elect Members to a new European Parliament
in 2019. I take this opportunity to call on you to reach agreement as soon as possible on the
Parliament’s proposal from last year to reform the Union’s electoral law so that it can be in place
in time for those 2019 elections.
The kick-off date for the withdrawal process is therefore now indicated. However, such an
indication is not the same as actually invoking Article 50. The principle of no negotiation without
notification still holds until that date. There will be no pre-negotiations before Article 50 is
Once the UK government has decided what sort relationship it is looking for, the EU will be
ready to act.
From day one, the European Parliament must be fully involved in setting the new relationship
between the EU and the UK – not least because it must give its consent to any withdrawal treaty
and subsequent treaty setting out the full relationship. Treating the EP as an obstacle rather than
a partner in this process would therefore be a serious mistake.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz
I would like to underline to you a few points on which an overwhelming majority in the European
Parliament expects you to stand firm when designing the EU’s future relationship with the UK.
Firstly, a very simple principle which must be the basis for all our subsequent work: the best
possible deal with the EU is membership of the EU. Any other arrangement necessarily entails
Secondly, the fundamental freedoms are inseparable, i.e. no freedom of movement for goods,
capital and services, without free movement of persons. What alienates so many people from
today’s Union is precisely the feeling that capital, goods and services have more value than
people! I refuse to imagine a Europe where lorries and hedge funds are free to cross borders but
citizens are not.
Thirdly, we need the UK and the EU to continue to project their core values on human rights,
democracy and the rule of law towards other continental blocs.
Fourthly, in the fields of security and defence policy, although the EU loses a key Member State,
such a separation should give the necessary impulse for closer integration.
Finally, over the coming months and years, good faith and perseverance should be the
watchwords. The United Kingdom remains fully part of the EU until it withdraws. Its views and
right to vote are respected as before. But the context of that country having a foot out of the door
cannot be ignored. If Britain wants out then it should not prevent the Union from tackling the
existential challenges it faces and it should show understanding that others may want to deepen
their cooperation in certain areas.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The process of withdrawal from the EU is already taking up much of the UK’s and the EU’s time
and energy. The EU needs to find a model whereby Brexit, rather than being a permanent
distraction, is instead used as the catalyst for a reform process designed to ensure that, where
the Union has a power to act, it also has the corresponding tools to deliver effective policy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When the Commission President delivered his State of the Union speech in the European
Parliament in Strasbourg, looking back at one of the most dramatic years in our recent history,
he delivered a speech of hope and proposed a positive agenda of actions for the next months,
for example on the digital economy.
The European Parliament is delighted that the Heads of State and Government gathered last
month in Bratislava took the unprecedented step of expressly welcoming that speech.
We are ready for this challenge and will work intensively to shape these proposals. The
Community method is the tried and tested way to produce results which draw the full potential
from the current treaties.
In the EU today there are too many naysayers and too few committed to working on concrete
proposals. Let’s set this right!
Thank you for your attention.
For further information:
[email protected]
Giacomo Fassina
Press Officer
European Parliament President Martin Schulz
+32 498 98 33 10