At the dawn of a new era for Poland, Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament talked to Andrzej Geber about the role of Strasburg in an enlarged EU.
A. G. The European parliament will welcome 106 newly elected deputies from the 10 accession states after the EU elections in June 2004. In your opinion, will an enlarged parliament be a stronger or weaker institution?
Pat Cox: The enlargement is a unique process, unparalleled in terms of scale and diversity, and the first common opportunity to elect Members of the European Parliament for a five-year mandate to deal with this new Europe.
In the end, the forthcoming European election will result in 732 people whose collective ability to influence the EU law-making will be the equivalent, in many areas of policy-making, to the sum of all 25 member states. That is a powerful influence.
I think a lot depends on a quick and successful adoption of the Constitutional treaty. The work that has been done by the Convention with regard to the European Parliament - an extension of qualified majority voting with co-decision, a reformulation of the budget procedure to do away with the highly artificial distinction between compulsory and non compulsory expenditure, the general role of the Parliament with regard to European Commission and other institutions - is a good result. My take on what has been offered by the Convention, is to see a real attempt to put more parliamentary democracy into the European process at several different levels.
As an English speaking President and Deputy of the European Parliament you are in the privileged position of communicating in both your mother tongue and in other languages. Do you think that a good knowledge of other languages play an important role in being an effective European Deputy?
Pat Cox: Clearly it can be helpful but the only requirement to become a Member of the European Parliament is democracy itself - obtaining a majority in the ballot box. Knowledge of a foreign language is not and should never become a requirement of being an MEP. This is why, we in the European Parliament, have worked very hard to ensure that the interpreting and translating services for all of the new languages of the European Union will be in place in the European Parliament in time for enlargement. As a Parliament we strongly believe in the principle of linguistic and cultural diversity - we have also led sustained efforts to preserve minority languages.
However, I believe that learning a new language can open up many new possibilities. A foreign language gives us access to another culture - which leads to greater understanding of our various European cultures and traditions. Knowledge of other languages also helps greatly in communicating with your European parliamentary colleagues particularly in the corridors - where, as we all know, a lot of our parliamentary business is done!
What message would you like to address to Polish youth in both their expectations and commitment to becoming young citizens of Europe?
Pat Cox: I have been very privileged, during my many visits to Poland, to meet with many young people and students. I have been delighted to see that there are so many brilliant young Poles, with extensive international training and experience, who are highly committed to their country and to Europe. I am optimistic about their future and passionate about the integration of their country into the European Union.
I wish to encourage the young Europeans of Poland to identify and take the opportunities to participate in decision-making at local, regional and national level, to find effective ways for their views to be heard and to make the results of this participation visible to the general public and to young people themselves.
I also want to encourage the young people of Poland to take an active part in the first European elections of the enlarged European Union, for this will be your important contribution to our new Europe - to your Europe.