25 years on, Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech still shows the way forward

16-Apr-2013 @ 14:15

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Speaking in a debate on the Future of Europe with Finnish Prime MinisterKatainen, European Conservatives and Reformists group leader Martin Callanansaid that Margaret Thatcher's 1988 Bruges speech was still strikingly relevantto the debate.

He said:

"As many in the House willunderstand, last week was a very sad one for Conservatives with the death ofMargaret Thatcher. 25 years ago she set out a new direction for Europe to takein her famous Bruges speech. And, looking back on it now it’s striking howrelevant it would be today.

"To quote one passage: "What we need now isto take decisions on the next steps forward, rather than let ourselves bedistracted by Utopian goals. Utopia never comes, because we know we should notlike it if it did." Yet even today, many focus on the abstract utopian conceptof completing the European project. For them only 'More Europe' is theanswer.

"Prime Minister, with the help of your government, the Councilset out on a more realistic path with a reformed and reduced European budget.You are to be congratulated on that - I hope you'll be able to convince the EPPleadership in this House who seem to want to out-do the Socialists in theirenthusiasm to spend more and more taxpayers money. However, many of the EU'seconomic problems stem from the fork in the road that we took in the Delorsdays. We moved away from competition and open markets, and towards harmonizationand overregulation.

"Former commissioner Verheugen, from your Group MrSwoboda, estimated that EU regulation cost European business 600 billion euros.That’s four times the entire output of Finland! Yet we continue churning outlaws as though our economy can cope, and somehow we don’t have 26 million peopleunemployed.

"It was Einstein who said "the definition of insanity isdoing the same thing over and over again and expecting it to turn outdifferently"  Is it not time we tried a different course? Mr President, the Euroepitomized utopian thinking. We rushed into the project without thinking throughthe economics. Yes, the debt crisis was the trigger, but the euro was a fortressbuilt on sand. Jacques Delors himself said that the euro 'cannot exist withoutthe counterpart of a European government." The agenda was quite clear even backthen.

"Federalists like your European minister, our old friend AlexanderStubb will no doubt approve of this. When in 2006 the Belgian Prime Minister,one Guy Verhofstadt, came to this parliament, Mr Stubb effused, 'There are nottoo many 'federalists' out there: there are many closet federalists but not manyreal federalists anymore."  I bet he never repeats that in Finland now! If onlysome national leaders had been that honest 15 years ago, we would not be in thissituation today.

"The final cost of this utopian project will be enormousfor your country, Prime Minister. We all know how unpopular the bailouts are.Support for the euro is still strong in Finland and given your geography, it isunderstandable why. However, do the Finnish people really want to see theirtaxpayer money flow to other parts of the currency union? We know from theremarks of your socialist finance Minister that she certainlydoesn't.

"We need to be honest with people about what membership of theeuro is going to cost and we need to take the difficult decisionsrequired.

"Because, until we do, our attention will never focus on thereal challenge we face: maintaining our competitiveness in a challenging world.Former Commissioner Bolkestein, from your political family Mr Verhofstadt, putit very well last week when he said, "The euro turned out to be a sleeping pillwhich made Europe doze off instead of thinking about our competitiveness." Weshould be cutting red tape, freeing up labour markets, restructuring oureconomies, opening up to trade, and slimming down the state.

However, ifwe learn anything from Margaret Thatcher’s life it’s that change is possible ifyou’re willing to fight for it. Outside this building there is a real desire forchange: for the EU to focus on building a stronger economy, on reforming itspolicies for the 21st century, and on decentralizing power.

"25 years on,Margaret Thatcher's speech still shows the way forward. Let's not keep makingthe same mistakes of the past. Instead, let's take Europe in a newdirection."

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